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Assembly parties must campaign on real issues

Is DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster right to argue (News, June 8) that none of the other parties has proposed solutions to the welfare reform debacle?

If you remember, this problem did arise last year - firstly due to the introduction of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms in Britain by the Department of Works and Pension (DWP) and, secondly, because welfare is a devolved matter for Stormont.

To put this into context, Mrs Foster's predecessor as Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, has conceded that it would "cost over £50m just to pay for the administration and IT costs to devolve all of the taxes" proposed by Sinn Fein (and the SDLP) during the Westminster elections.

Because tax and welfare are two sides of the same coin and utilise almost exactly the same data, then it really wouldn't cost much more than £50m for the administration and IT costs to deliver both welfare and taxes in Northern Ireland (ie complete fiscal autonomy).

In future Assembly elections to come, the Northern Ireland parties will be able to campaign on real issues such as these that affect the lives of their constituents.

BERNARD J MULHOLLAND

Belfast

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