The Alliance Party has today highlighted the £1 Billion cost from Northern Ireland public expenditure that is wasted on managing a divided society, and suggested that this money could be better spent in reducing hospital waiting lists, avoiding punitive water charges and providing quality services and facilities for all.
Speaking outside the gates of Stormont, Alliance Party Leader, David Ford said:
“The Alliance Party is here today to expose a financial scandal.
“£1 billion of public money is wasted in this society every year in managing a divided society — the costs of segregation.
“We are here to give it back, and show that difficult choices always have to be made with scarce resources.
“Northern Ireland is suffering because at present we are not spending our money well.
“Northern Ireland can do much better.
“How is money wasted?
“The costs of a divided society are apparent in three respects.
“First, there are the direct costs of policing riots, other civil disturbances and parades, the distortions to policing that arise from the security threat, and the costs to a wide range of agencies in repairing damaged buildings and facilities.
“For example, we spent half as much again as equivalent parts of the UK on policing.
“Second, there are the indirect costs of providing duplicate goods, facilities and services for separate sections of the community, either implicitly or explicitly. This includes: schools, GP surgeries, job centres, community centre, leisure centres, and even bus stops. These costs are borne not just by the public sector, but by the private sector too. The divisions and segregation in Northern Ireland have also proven to be a major deterrent to inward investment, and to tourism. The costs of attracting inward investment and tourism can also be taken into consideration to a large extent.
“Per capita spending on education in NI is 33% more than in GB. In part, this is a reflection of greater rural population, but not all of it. But are standards any better? Too much money is locked up in buildings rather than front-line services. But where are the cash-strapped Education and Library Boards looking for savings? Around 14% of the school places in NI are vacant compared to around 8% in Great Britain.
“Third, there are the opportunity costs of lost inward investment and tourism. While the Northern Ireland economy has performed well in recent
years, it is still performing well below its potential capacity.
“Can Northern Ireland afford this luxury? Of course not. Just look at the consequences.
“Today, Northern Ireland has the longest hospital waiting lists in the UK, our infrastructure is crumbling, and we are facing punitive water charges.
“Rather than spending on second rate facilities for different sections of the community, Alliance believes that all this money could be much better
used in providing quality services and facilities open to all and for the benefit of the whole community.
“There is real evidence that people actually do want to live and learn, work and play together. What is missing is a sense of security and the actual facilities and opportunities to do so.
“But Government is actually reinforcing the divisions and the waste of money through not being prepared to make tough choices. Indeed, at times, they actively resist.
“The parents of Ballycastle has shown that there is strong demand for an integrated school in their area. But this year, the Education Minister again denied it funding on the grounds it would jeopardise existing schools.
“Alliance would like to see mixed housing and integrated education particularly promoted. We have a target of 10% of our children being in
integrated schools by 2010, and have a 9-point plan to achieve it.
“Sharing saves, segregation costs.
“During this election, lots of parties have been trying to clam the shared future agenda.
“But Alliance knows that a shared future is not just about acknowledging that we all have to live on the same piece of land, but rather how we can
live together on this same piece of land.
“On 5 May, a vote for Alliance is a vote for a different set of financial priorities.
“On 5 May, only a vote for Alliance is a vote for building a united community.”