Neeson slams Executive in Assembly finance debate

East Antrim Alliance MLA Séan Neeson this week told the Assembly that the Executive exists only in name at present. He was speaking in a debate about the impact financial pressure on public services.

Mr Neeson said: “What has been proposed shows the arrogance of an Executive that treats this Assembly with the greatest contempt. At present, the Executive exist in name only. The proposed financial monitoring process is too limited. It is worth defining the problem, because terms such as “downturn” and “credit crunch” are loosely bandied about. The Government’s difficulty is that the value of assets has decreased. Therefore, assumptions in relation to land sales – about which the Alliance Party was always wary – may turn out to be inaccurate. As much of the Executive’s future planning was based on those assumptions, there will be a significant detrimental effect.

“The downturn in the Republic of Ireland will have an impact on tax receipts and, therefore, on the availability of funding for the national development plan for Ireland, which includes projects in Northern Ireland, such as the Belfast to Larne road. Again, the Alliance Party was always wary that such funding might not be prioritised in the event of unfavourable economic conditions.

“The credit crunch has an impact on borrowing, but that applies more to businesses and households than directly to Government. The political challenge of how to ensure that small businesses do not suffer at the hands of warier bankers is a big issue.

“I am also worried about the real danger that we will talk Northern Ireland into a more serious recession than that experienced in the rest of the UK.

“There is a real need for an annual budget in Northern Ireland. Every other political institution has an annual Budget. In order to function properly, this Assembly must also have an annual Budget; particularly bearing in mind the daily changing economic situation in Northern Ireland, the UK, the Republic of Ireland and globally.”


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