The Executive should hold frequent meetings with the Treasury and the Republic’s Department of Finance so that Northern Ireland’s interests are reflected in banking policy, Ulster Unionist finance spokeperson David McNarry has today said.
Mr McNarry has tabled a number of proposals in an eight-page economic paper targeting corporate accountability for fiscal responsibility.
The Strangford MLA claimed the recent appearance of representatives of Northern Ireland’s main banks before assembly committees showed the “ineffectiveness” of devolved structures in scrutinising banks.
He said: “Clearly decisions are taken in London and only implemented regionally.
“The chancellor should recognise this and establish a formal mechanism for the Northern Ireland Executive, along with the other devolved regions, to meet regularly with the Treasury on banking policy.
“A similar arrangement with the Dublin government should be considered with regards to Irish banks operating in Northern Ireland.”
In a wide-ranging critique of the Executive’s record on the economy, Mr McNarry said Northern Ireland’s dependency on the public sector had cushioned it from the worst of the recession.
But he said “hard underlying realities had to be faced” as efficiency savings required by Westminster were implemented.
He claimed a failure to focus on the needs of small business in the programme for government had “contributed to the drift in the economic policy”.
Northern Ireland’s economy had to abandon a culture of dependency, he said.
“Self-reliance, responsible management of the Northern Ireland budget, and forward planning must replace the dependency culture which has shackled the ability of Northern Ireland to succeed.”
A contingency fund for the executive “must become a priority,” Mr McNarry added.
“The Executive has no contingency fund set aside to deal with emerging issues such as swine flu and the Northern Ireland civil service equal pay claim.
“Up to now, the Executive has relied on in-year monitoring. In this process departments have historically under-spent their budgets quite significantly meaning that the finance minister has always been in a position to redistribute large portions of cash to fill holes as they have emerged.
“However, in light of the recession and improvements in departments’ spending performances the finance minister cannot rely on under-spends anymore. A contingency fund should be funded by the Treasury and the executive before the next spending review.
“This would result in much more prudent and much less risky financial management,” he added.