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Sammy Wilson’s candid warning on Northern Ireland cutbacks

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is expected to admit today that Stormont can no longer deliver all its policy pledges.

The candid message is due to be contained in a keynote speech that will spell out the tough financial choices facing the Executive and Assembly.

It will focus on the impact on Northern Ireland of the worst cuts in public expenditure in a generation across the UK.

The minister is expected to acknowledge that the full range of commitments in the Executive's Programme for Government can no longer be afforded.

And he will warn that unpopular decisions will have to be considered to safeguard frontline public services.

Mr Wilson is also likely to again raise the question of how long Stormont can continue deferring the introduction of household water charges.

The speech is also due to make clear that all Government departments will have to make hard decisions and will not be immune from the spending squeeze.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has been pushing the idea of his department being ring fenced from future cuts. But Mr Wilson has argued that this would place an impossible burden on other wings of Government.

The Finance Minister's speech at Belfast City Hall today will also include a plea for mature debate and strategic thinking on spending priorities.

He will call for decisions to be made without political point scoring between parties.

It will also flag up his frustration over demands being made for more funding for projects, without anyone detailing where the money for these should come from.

It was announced last week that the Executive is facing fresh cutbacks of £128m. That represents its share of a £6bn reduction introduced by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Stormont, in common with other devolved administrations, has been given the option of deferring the cutbacks to 2011/12.

But that would be on top of much more drastic reductions planned for next year.

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