Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We need detail on budget cuts

While Finance Minister Sammy Wilson filled in the broad brushstrokes of how the Executive's spending plans will look over the next four years in his draft budget statement, it is imperative that the fine detail of the picture emerges as soon as possible.

Ministers in each department need to outline what their spending priorities will be in the coming age of austerity, so that those affected can gauge the full impact.

Already there are doomsday predictions of 4,000 job losses in the health service and the ludicrous suggestion that a multi-million pound radiotherapy unit planned for Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital could not be staffed or equipped when built.

Educationalists are warning of a bloodbath of redundancies in the classrooms and schools being allowed to crumble because of lack of funding. Such grim forecasts could gain credence if ministers delay in setting out their future programmes so that they can be examined forensically rather than be the subject of hyperbole.

Public consultation on the draft budget is confined to eight weeks, making the quest for more details all the more urgent.

It is also imperative that the Westminster government's long-promised white paper on the Northern Ireland economy is published as soon as possible. It was supposed to be delivered in the autumn, outlining proposals such as the lowering of corporation tax to help rebalance the province's economy.

No further delay is acceptable since it is clear that Mr Wilson's budget will do nothing to stimulate investment or job creation.

This newspaper repeatedly warned the Prime Minister that insensitive public spending cuts would be disastrous for our fragile economy and those words ring as true today as previously.

So where are their remedies?

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