Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

SDLP criticises 'lazy' draft budget

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie

The SDLP has branded the draft budget lazy and unimaginative - heightening fears of a Stormont split on the crucial legislation.

The Ulster Unionist Party is considering voting against the four-year spending plan.

Now the SDLP has accused the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein of lashing out at anybody who questioned them.

Leader Margaret Ritchie said: "Our complaint, and the complaint of very many other stakeholders, is that this lazy and unimaginative budget should be so much better.

"And we believe that SDLP proposals for new revenue streams, capital receipts and cash-releasing efficiency savings, can indeed make the budget so much better."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has accused the UUP and SDLP of electioneering and adopting populist positions. It comes amid deepening divisions within the Executive over the budget.

On Friday, Mr McGuinness said UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood had criticised the proposals at every opportunity.

Ms Ritchie said: "Devolution was supposed to make a difference - but the DUP/Sinn Fein draft budget we have before us simply does not address the real needs of the North. There is no real attempt to mitigate the Tory cuts."

The Department of Finance argues it has protected spending on health, prioritised economic growth, shifted £250 million from current expenditure to capital to support the construction industry and supported frontline services while seeking efficiencies across government.

Ms Ritchie said: "The DUP and Sinn Fein must recognise that our top priority has to be economic development and jobs, alongside protection of vulnerable households and front-line services."

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