The minor Executive parties have attempted to step up pressure for a revamp of the three-year budget.
Ahead of next week’s national budget from Chancellor Alistair Darling, Ulster Unionists warned of ramifications for the Stormont devolved administration.
And with the Assembly due to return from recess on Monday, the SDLP said MLAs must reassert their authority and insist on new budget priorities.
UUP finance committee member David McNarry warned predictions of an austere budget next Wednesday could mean new efficiency targets, tinkering with Northern Ireland’s block grant and reductions in public spending.
Predicting a “wake-up call” for budget priorities, he argued Finance Minister Nigel Dodds would have “little room to manoeuvre if he sticks stubbornly to his own outdated financial plans. Mr Darling can only compound Mr Dodds’ problems”.
“Come budget day our own Finance Minister will, in my opinion, have no choice other than to break with his financial programme with immediate effect.
“He needs to re-write, re-order and re-prioritise the manner in which Northern Ireland’s financial affairs are to be managed in the future,” the Strangford MLA added.
And SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said the budget put together last year by Sinn Fein and the DUP has now lost any last shred of credibility and the Assembly “must revisit it without delay”. Speaking a week after the SDLP set out a potential £400m in savings, he insisted: “The projections were never realistic to the extent that they were expected to hold for three years.
“There is a very good reason why governments and businesses around the world set budgets once a year — because things change. At a time when families are being forced to change their budget priorities it is irresponsible of the parties which control the Executive not to do the same.
“It is political arrogance which has left us in such a weak position to deal with mounting job losses, nursing redundancies and a shortage of social housing.”