Belfast Telegraph

We should all learn to live within our means

By Liam Clarke

Our basic problem is that we can't pay our way, that is the point Sinn Fein are ignoring.

The Executive racked up hundreds of millions in debt by avoiding difficult decisions and we get a subsidy of £10bn from the Treasury.

Add to that the fact that the Tory-led government in London are reforming welfare to ensure that it always pays to work and to save money.

Against that background Sinn Fein are trying to ensure every claimant in Northern Ireland is a winner, not just initially to ease the transition but into perpetuity for new claimants too.

Britain only gives us enough to pay benefits at the rates applying in England and Wales, a system which produces winners, who get more, and losers, who see payments like housing benefits reduced.

These changes will hit particularly hard in Sinn Fein constituencies like west Belfast, but they will hit across the board.

This should be an issue for the whole community, not a sectarian bun fight.

Taking the money from anywhere else is likely to be painful.

We are planning to lay off 20,000 public servants to pay the bill, we can sell property like old Army bases.

We could look at some of the trophy projects the big parties are so proud of like rates relief for Orange halls and an Irish language school with 15 people.

Our parties largely aren't up for that, or at least they haven't so far proved capable of agreeing measures to raise revenue beyond parking charges.

The prospects for an administration which can neither pay its own way nor set priorities and stick to them is not secure.

The solution of this involves a simple but difficult decision.

We need to accept the money that we are given and pay it out in benefits, making it up as best we can within overall spending priorities.

That is what governments everywhere have to do

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