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Pain of cuts will hit us harder, says Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has claimed Northern Ireland is facing “devastating” cuts while the richest parts of England are being left “largely unaffected”.

Mr McGuinness levelled the accusation in the Assembly on the same day that Prime Minister David Cameron gave his bluntest warning yet on cutbacks.

Mr Cameron said action to tackle the national debt will change the way of life of everyone in the UK over the coming years.

The Tory-Lib Dem Government has announced £6bn in cuts this year with much larger reductions planned for 2011/12.

Northern Ireland's share of the £6bn total is £128m, but the Stormont Executive has been given the option of deferring it to next year.

Mr McGuinness yesterday alleged that “British Government departments based in Whitehall” are “taking very little of the pain being forced on the rest of us”.

“Indeed Whitehall departments, I think, have very successfully passed the parcel onto other parts of public services — local and devolved government, quangos, universities, private sector contractors and suppliers, and others who will take the bulk of the pain,” he said.

He said the Conservative Party had only one MP returned in Scotland, eight in Wales and “none elected here”.

“For us here in the North who already suffer from having the highest poverty levels, lowest income levels, lower economic growth, the budget cuts, I think, will have a devastating impact,” he added.

“At the same time, you have a situation where the wealthiest parts of England will be left largely unaffected by the cuts.”

Mr McGuinness also told MLAs that Stormont ministers are planning an “away day” to deal with the growing funding challenges.

In a speech on the economy yesterday, Mr Cameron said it was clear the “overall scale of the problem is even worse than we thought”.

The Prime Minister added: “How we deal with these things will affect our economy, our society — indeed our whole way of life.

“The decisions we make will affect every single person in our country. And the effects of those decisions will stay with us for years, perhaps decades, to come.”

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