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Extra £140m is good news for Northern Ireland says Dodds, but rival parties give thumbs-down

 

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Budget published: Karen Bradley

Budget published: Karen Bradley

PA

Budget published: Karen Bradley

The DUP has said that it made a "compelling case" to the Government to secure an extra £140m for Northern Ireland in a budget which the party hailed as "good news for our schools and hospitals".

Stormont's 2019-20 budget was published by Secretary of State Karen Bradley yesterday. It brings a 2% rise in overall resources for Northern Ireland after inflation is factored in.

Sinn Fein denounced it as a "punishing austerity budget imposed by the Tory Government - now supported by the DUP".

But DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: "Whilst Sinn Fein complain about this budget, they have abdicated their responsibility. It should be a local minister setting it.

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"It's time for Sinn Fein to end their unreasonable boycott of Stormont. Whilst they boycott over Irish language legalisation, the DUP will get on with delivering through Westminster for schools, roads, hospitals and mental health services."

The Government has taken responsibility for announcing Northern Ireland's annual spending plans since the collapse of powersharing at Stormont two years ago.

The additional £140m is on top of the £11bn block grant. Under the budget, education will suffer a 0.7% cut in real terms when inflation and this year's in-year spending is factored

The Department of Health's budget is up 2% in real terms after inflation and the additional funds diverted to health over the last year are considered. Mr Dodds said: "The DUP has been able to shape this budget both through the further allocations from our £1bn confidence and supply deal but also through another £140m to address immediate pressures such as waiting lists which we secured from Treasury.

"This is new money which would not have been allocated to Northern Ireland. We made a compelling case to the Chancellor and I'm delighted it will help families up and down the province."

The DUP deputy leader added: "There is also good news for areas of deprivation with £20m from the confidence and supply deal being allocated to help some of our most vulnerable. Mental health services will also be able to avail of a further £10m secured through the confidence and supply deal and £100m for modernising our health service."

But Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said: "This budget, delivered with the full backing of the DUP, will mean continued crises in education and health, increased homelessness and poverty rising.

"It will also mean a rates hike of 4.5% for ordinary households and 1.5% for businesses. Local civil servants tell us £11.9bn is needed to fund public services. This budget falls far short of that figure and means more hardship ahead for ordinary people.

"Health needs will not be met, school budgets will be insufficient, and there will be less money for the arts, libraries, and undeserved communities.

"The DUP should hang its head in shame at having used its unprecedented leverage with the British Government to continue austerity and bring our economy to a Brexit cliff-edge."

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley said: "The SDLP have always said that a budget delivered by Westminster is direct rule by any other name. As long as Stormont remains deadlocked, we cannot have a say over our own finances.

"Instead, we remain reliant upon an untrustworthy Tory-DUP partnership, whilst Sinn Fein remain un-alarmed by the encroaching hand of British involvement in our financial affairs.

"It is criminal that here in Northern Ireland we are prevented from bringing forward our own budget; a budget that reflects the needs of our constituents right across Northern Ireland. This is yet another example of how the continued standoff between the two problem parties is costing us all."

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken hit out at what he called the tokenistic box-ticking engagement with local parties by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) on the budget.

"Every piece of budgetary information requested by the parties in recent days and weeks has been withheld.

"There has been no disclosure of any meaningful figures," he said

"This budget appears to be the latest step towards direct rule. If this is the case the Secretary of State should show some leadership and get on with it.

"However, she must make it clear that the secretive manner in which her department has acted in recent weeks is not a sign of things to come."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "This is yet another stop-gap budget delivered via the NIO in liaison with local civil servants. A series of quick fixes such as raiding capital budgets are used to plug holes in a sinking boat.

"Without ministers who can take policy decisions and drive reforms, we will continue with an unsustainable spending pattern, with inefficiencies tolerated and public services eroding, and opportunities to improve our economy and society passed up."

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts described the budget as "extremely disappointing" and a "missed opportunity".

He said: "Retail NI is disappointed that the Secretary of State has not listened to our concerns over business rates. Why is that independent retailers in England get a third off their rate bills and their Northern Ireland counterparts get an increase?

"Small businesses in Northern Ireland are now paying the highest business rates in the UK and this budget should have reduced the regional rate, rather than increasing it."


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