East Belfast MP Naomi Long has said the need to address the financial cost of division in Northern Ireland has been highlighted once again following the Chancellor’s Spending Review.
Alliance MP Mrs Long said George Osborne’s announcement in the House of Commons today (Wednesday) that the Northern Ireland resource budget would be £9.6 billion in the 2015/16 financial year and his continued commitment to the austerity plans make tackling the cost of division crucial to long-term public finances. Today’s announcement represents a two per cent resource reduction.
Independent consultants Deloitte have estimated that duplication due to segregated provision and the wider direct, indirect and opportunity costs of sectarianism and instability costs the economy up to £1.5 billion per year. This has continued with the lack of substantive progress by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) on the issue of a shared future.
“The challenge is now for the Northern Ireland Executive to more carefully manage its resources.
“The obvious and best way to do that is to work towards eliminating the up to £1.5 billion of expenditure, money which we need to release to protect vital public services and vulnerable people in our community as austerity continues to be rolled out, with continued cuts and further welfare reform measures announced, for example.
“In OFMDFM’s Together Building a United Community strategy launched last month, there was reference to the Executive addressing this issue. I believe that is a start, an acceptance that this problem exists and the big test is for it to be delivered upon.
“Although the financial implications of the Chancellor’s Spending Review were not as extreme for Northern Ireland as they may have been, due largely to the protection of the health budget, there is no sense that government is reconsidering how far cuts will go. We cannot afford not to address this key area either economically or socially and it needs urgency attached.
“Whilst I regret that it remains necessary to do so, I also welcome the financial commitment made to the PSNI to assist them with the added cost of policing due to the ongoing terrorist threat.”