Belfast Telegraph

Concern over financial questions

Some Northern Ireland ministers are unwilling to address serious financial challenges, Sammy Wilson has claimed.

An extra £128 million reduction in funding has to be found because of public spending cuts by the Westminster coalition.

The Finance Minister briefed the assembly on the challenges ahead.

"I must take this opportunity to record my growing unease at what I would call the disconnect that was made evident by some ministers," he said.

"There appears in some quarters to be an unwillingness to address the serious financial questions that are being posed.

"Let's be clear we cannot dodge difficult decisions in formulating a new budget. Delaying the budget process until next spring is not an option."

The Regional Development Minister told the assembly that the government-owned company model for Northern Ireland Water (NIW) may be renationalised. Conor Murphy said the current model was at odds with its public service remit.

He added changing NIW's status would require extensive legislation but that he wanted it firmly within the public service.

Mr Wilson said the proposals would make the delivery of water services more expensive, rendering it harder to encourage private investment in infrastructure work.

"All government departments need to have certainty on budget allocations for 2011-12 by early in the new year at the latest," he added.

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