Stephen Farry MLA stated: “At this time of considerable budgetary pressure, it is incredible that the Executive are determined to put their financial house in order entirely through cuts in public spending and an inevitable deterioration in public services.
“In the context of a forthcoming statement from the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, on how the Executive intends to address a £370m hole in the budget for 2010-2011 financial year, and probable cuts to the Northern Ireland Block Grant after the General Election, the Executive is moving ahead with legislation to freeze the level of the regional rate for the third year.
” Alliance has always maintained that the freezing of the regional rate, rather than allowing the regional rate to increase gently in line with inflation was cheap populism. The lost revenue creates an opportunity cost in terms of both rebalancing our economy and sustaining public services.
“In this financial climate, it is simply unsustainable. If the budget is to be unpicked in terms of expenditure commitments, then it is surely logical to revisit the assumptions made regarding the raising of revenue too.
“A freeze in rates is in effect a cut once inflation is taken into account. This move disproportionally favours those that tend to be better-off. By contrast, it is those that are less well-off who depend upon underfunded public services disproportionately more.
“Already public services in Northern Ireland are under considerable pressure. People are seeing problems from the health service to the gritting of roads. Even with this, it is clear that the Executive have a single focus of further and further cuts.”