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Cross-Sector Advisory Forum

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 12:45 pm, 20th April 2009

It would be ludicrous for any of them to suggest, in the middle of an economic downturn, that we should do anything other than focus on the economy — it is essential that we do so. It is worth pointing out that this Assembly has a Budget to spend that is greater than that of any Assembly before. Not only were there natural increases, but two packages of funding supplemented the Budget — the last of which was to the value of £900 million. That is a massive boost, and one that would certainly not be offered today were one to go to the Chancellor.

The additional funding that is available has assisted us in the circumstances in which we are placed. We would not have been able to deal with issues such as water charging otherwise. If there are people in this House who believe that we need more money for public expenditure, and that we should increase rates and introduce water charging, let them stand up and say so.

It is no good people whinging in the background, saying that we need more money for this purpose or that purpose, unless they can identify where they will get the funding from. That is why I welcomed the SDLP’s proposal. For the first time, in my view, the SDLP stopped simply asking for more money for this, that and the other, and identified the need to find those funds from elsewhere. I do not agree that all the money referred to in that proposal is available to be used for funding, but there is some measure of benefit in that debate taking place, and all the political parties putting forward their proposals. Let us see where that takes us.