Belfast Telegraph

Stormont rudderless and weak

By Mark Brotherston

The Executive's latest fiasco involves the June 'monitoring round', which sets Northern Ireland's budget for the next three months.

After their customary round of 'crisis talks', the DUP and Sinn Fein cobbled together a half-baked deal, inflicting £78m of cuts, arbitrarily, on all Stormont departments, with the exception of health and education.

The two parties couldn't agree on welfare reform, though, so they'll need to find another £87m in October, due to their failure to decide on the future of our benefits system.

The 'capital expenditure' side of the budget attracted less attention, but provided further cause for concern. It deals with big infrastructure projects, which inject money directly into Northern Ireland's economy, resulting in new jobs and a booming private sector.

Departments across the Executive have failed to spend hundreds of millions of pounds, which are available for these projects.

Dcal returned £35m, earmarked to build new sports stadia; a gas extension project, worth £10m, was postponed.

The health minister didn't manage to use £10m set aside to construct the Regional Children's Hospital; DRD failed to spend £120m to improve roads.

Failure to inject this money into Northern Ireland means projects delayed, construction companies continuing to struggle and people remaining on the dole.

It also means sick children will have to wait longer for the hospital, sports fans will have to put up with outdated facilities, and motorists will have to resign themselves to pot-holes.

The contrast between David Cameron's Conservative-led Government and this hapless DUP/Sinn Fein-led Executive could not be starker.

Conservatives take tough decisions at Westminster and get the economy back on track; Robinson and McGuinness preside over waste and inaction. People in Northern Ireland deserve more. They deserve a proper, functioning Executive, prepared to take responsibility and get on with making tough decisions.

Conservatives provide this type of leadership at Westminster, but it is sadly lacking at Stormont.

Belfast Telegraph


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