Belfast Telegraph

MLAs approve Stormont's 'fantasy' budget bill

By Claire Williamson

Stormont finance minister's 'fantasy budget' has been approved by MLAs.

It comes after Sinn Fein backed Stormont's budget bill in order to buy time to bring about a deal on welfare reform.

The second stage of the Bill received the cross-community support required for it to pass with 63 members out of 66 voting for it.

It was backed by the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance - the SDLP and UUP did not vote.

The bill was voted against by Steven Agnew from the Green Party,Independent John McCallister and the TUV's Jim Allister.

During the debate the finance minister called the SDLP "the Vicky Pollard of the Assembly" over their attitude to the Budget Bill.

The SDLP have said previously would not vote against the bill but that they ca't support the bill in its "present form".

Mrs Foster was referring to what Alasdair McDonnell, Pat Ramsey and Alex Attwood said on the budget.

The finance minister said: "It did remind me very much of the sketch from Little Britain, when Vicky Pollard would be asked a question - 'no, but yes, but no'."

Sinn Fein's "conditional support" gives the Executive a reprieve, allowing the parties to put off the crisis until autumn - though it will cost Stormont £2m a week in the meantime.

Because there is no deal on welfare reform, the budget put forward by DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster contains a £604m black hole. However passing it will release loans and grants from Westminster for a while longer.

Questions were raised during the debate as to what would happened if the current impasse over welfare reform was not resolved.

She said: "The First Minister has always made it very clear that this party will not implement a budget which has £600m of cuts in terms of public services," she says.

"If welfare reform does not happen, there is no budget.

"If there is no welfare reform, there is no Stormont House Agreement and there is no Executive. It's very clear."

Further reading:

Stormont no nearer to solution

Sinn Fein backs 'fantasy' budget to ease Stormont welfare reform crisis 

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