Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

'No confidence' in budget plan

Ulster Unionist Assembly member David McNarry said the blueprint had failed to instil confidence

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has faced claims that the Assembly's draft budget is based on "ifs, buts and maybes".

This comes after Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey repeated his claim that his department has been put under major pressure by the spending plan drawn up to cope with billions in cuts from London.

As rows over the proposed budget continued, his party colleague David McNarry told the Finance Minister that the blueprint had failed to instil confidence.

But Mr Wilson told the Assembly Finance Committee that health had been given a fair deal when compared with similar departments in Britain and said his critics had yet to identify where the money would come from if the health service in Northern Ireland was to receive a further boost.

Mr McNarry, the committee's deputy chair, said: "I have got to say, and I've picked it up from members this morning, and certainly from hearing from other committees, there is no spark in this, in terms of it being a confidence driver. And listening to you this morning, and only weeks away from presenting this final budget, it's all ifs and buts and maybes."

Mr McNarry said the draft budget had failed to convince sceptics that the Executive was ready to cope with the cuts imposed by Chancellor George Osborne.

"To me, there's no coherence with it at all and you seem very uncomfortable yourself with this budget, not your usual ebullient self," he said.

"And that worries me because sometimes you can wing it or spin it...that lack of confidence is dripping down to nearly everyone you come in to contact with."

Mr Wilson said: "Just to assure you, I'm not down-hearted, I'm not pessimistic, I'm not feeling in any way bad for the prospects for the budget.

"I think we actually have achieved something which is going to be good for Northern Ireland, which does give the degree of certainty and which, albeit against the background of a fairly difficult spending period, I think we have done our best and made our best stab at protecting jobs, at meeting the priorities that we have and ensuring that the budget has been divided in as fair a way as possible."

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