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Sinn Fein turns on DUP over ‘credibility’ of cuts proposals

The new Assembly term has not started but party political divisions are clearly showing at Stormont over Government cutbacks.

Sinn Fein yesterday claimed its DUP Executive partners “lack credibility” when it comes to reducing spending.

The accusation came from Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew.

She was responding to DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, who is planning a cost-cutting move on ministerial cars and has also questioned the need for Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission.

The Sinn Fein Minister claimed the DUP has blocked re-organisations in education and local government that would have saved many millions.

Her comments referred to collapsed plans to reduce the number of councils, and the stalled |creation of a new education |authority.

“So while Sammy Wilson may chase headlines on issues like the Human Rights Commission or ministerial cars, any examination of the DUP record in the Executive, when it comes to taking decisions on cutting back bureaucracy, points to a party content with scarce public money being wasted on over-management and diverted from frontline services,” Ms Gildernew alleged.

The Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed a stark warning on the scale of the spending cutbacks facing Northern Ireland.

Seamus McAleavey, of voluntary sector body NICVA, said close to £2 billion could be slashed from budgets in four years — double earlier predictions.

DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster yesterday agreed with Mr McAleavey on the need for realism about the cuts.

“There's no point hiding away from the fact that we're going to have to deal with public sector cuts, but that doesn't mean that we have to pull back from the areas that we believe are important to us,” she told the BBC.

“A lot of people are hiding under the duvet thinking the cuts aren't going to affect them, but we have always said that this is going to be a very serious issue for us.”

But a senior trade unionist has warned of the consequences.

Peter Bunting, of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said between 25,000 and 40,000 jobs would be lost in the public and |private sectors across Northern Ireland.

He claimed a “lost generation” would be condemned to long-term unemployment, with a “brain drain” accelerated.

He also warned of a halt to Government construction projects as well as cuts to benefits and public services.

“Thousands of private sector jobs are reliant upon public procurement and the consumer spending of public sector workers,” Mr Bunting said.

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