RHI scandal compromising Budget process, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the ongoing RHI scandal means an agreed Budget is long overdue.

Dr Farry said the fact it was unclear if Northern Ireland currently had a functioning Government also meant an increased urgency on the Executive agreeing a position on how best to mitigate Brexit.

“Even the basic responsibilities of Government seem to be going unaddressed. While the DUP remains in denial about the scale of public distrust arising from this scandal and Sinn Fein refuses to endorse a proper public inquiry, the proper processes of Government are disregarded and political games are played.

“There is now a pressing requirement to put in place a Budget for the forthcoming financial year. Already due to the UK Autumn Statement, the prospect of a draft Budget was abandoned and the actual Budget delayed, to little benefit.

“Delays have real consequences for public sector organisations, and the community and voluntary sector wanting to plan ahead. For some, they may have to put staff on protective notice. Resources are already incredibly tight and every ounce of efficiency needs to be squeezed out. Delays make planning even more difficult, and risk reducing the impact of resources.

“If a snap election is called, there is a danger of no Budget being put in place and a Budget having to be imposed via the civil service. If all of the focus falls on the RHI fiasco and how to mitigate one aspect of the waste of public resources, there is a danger it comes at the expense of ongoing failure to reform other inefficiencies in public spending.

“Furthermore, there is an ever pressing requirement on the Executive to agree a plan for how best to mitigate the impact of Brexit upon Northern Ireland and the advocacy of Special Status. On the UK’s Government’s timescale, the triggering of Article 50 is looming and the Irish Government and European institutions that want to help Northern Ireland will run out of patience.”

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