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Rivals DUP and Sinn Fein join forces to spike UUP proposal on budget

By Noel McAdam

The DUP and Sinn Fein have joined forces to defeat an Ulster Unionist demand for a new budget and revised blueprint for government at Stormont.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt argued in a motion that implementation of the current four-year budget was untenable.

He referred to a list of Executive failures including the Education and Skills Authority, the Social Investment Fund and the "biggest ever crisis" in health.

"The Assembly has never faced such a financial watershed," he said. "The 2011-2015 budget has been found to be unworkable.

"We need a new budget. Moving money from one department to another to fill gaps is no way to run a Government."

The DUP's Paul Girvan responded, however: "Unfortunately, I think there is a bit of political point-scoring going on here." And Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay said: "It (the motion) doesn't make any sense, I agree. In 2010, it was the UUP which backed the Tory party, which has introduced these cuts. You can't have it both ways."

Alliance's Judith Cochrane said calls for a new budget were "not feasible" at the end of the current four-year one. "The notion of rewriting the 2014/15 budget is unwise," she added.

UUP Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy asked why Alliance ministers David Ford and Stephen Farry voted against the last monitoring round. Mrs Cochrane said they did so because education had been ring-fenced "without any justification".

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton admitted the forthcoming quarterly round would be "challenging". "What was always going to be difficult has been exacerbated by welfare reform," he said.

But he appealed to parties to "exhibit a maturity hitherto unseen" and reach agreement.

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