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Bitter exchanges as UUP and SDLP look set to reject draft proposals

Stormont's top two parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, yesterday rounded on their smaller counterparts amid bitter Assembly exchanges over the Budget.

With the deadline for submissions on the draft proposals falling today, it became apparent Ulster Unionists and the SDLP will vote against the current document.

Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay, chair of the finance scrutiny committee, accused the UUP of playing politics with the “vital” issue of health — and said UUP and SDLP members “cannot continue to go into the Executive and mess about.”

And DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said the smaller parties accusations of a “carve-up” over the Budget were “fantasy”.

“The budgets that were most generously treated in the draft Budget were those for health and employment and learning, neither of which are DUP or Sinn Fein departments,” he argued.

Alliance, also targeted the UUP and SDLP with finance spokesman Stephen Farry claiming: “One argument is that the Budget is the product of a DUP/Sinn Fein carve up, but on the other hand the SDLP is saying that its fingerprints are on the draft Budget, because all of the good ideas in the document were included in it. So, which version is it to be?” he asked.

But the SDLP’s Conal McDevitt said Mr Wilson had “let the cat out of the bag” in admitting the impact of the Budget would not be known until the final, fourth year.

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“That admission proves that the Budget is not a precise document and that Northern Ireland needs a Programme for Government to accompany it,” he said.

Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain said it was “nonsense” to argue the Budget would not further hit the poor — “there will be increased rents, rates, bus and rail fares, as well as an increase in child and pensioner poverty,” he said.

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