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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Ian McCrea Ian McCrea DUP 3:45 pm, 19th January 2016

Whilst, as the Minister said, he could go around every single Member in this Chamber and ask them for their wish list of things to spend the Budget on, we have to be realistic and realise that we have a certain amount of money to spend, and we can only spread it around as far as it goes. I think that this is a good Budget, and I commend the Minister, who has only been in place for a week, for bringing it forward.

I think that it has been lost on some Members that this is a one-year Budget. It is not dealing with all of the strategic priorities for Departments over the next five years. It is a one-year Budget to get us through to the election to allow the new Departments to set their strategic priorities and deal with the Programme for Government and things around that. I think that it is a good Budget in that there is not an overcommitment. The Minister said that this is the first time in years that there has not been an overcommitment in the Budget. It is unfortunate that there are Members who do not recognise that.

It is no surprise that Claire Hanna, who is not in her place, was against the Budget. Whilst she spoke well around how she thought that the Budget delivers nothing, she made no attempt whatsoever to speak positively around any aspect of it. There was not one word on how to do it any better or on which Department to take money from to pay for what she wants. Maybe the SDLP will stick with its policy of selling off the City of Derry Airport again to pay for its additional requests.

I believe that this Budget and the flagship projects show that the Executive have given a commitment to delivering projects across Northern Ireland. In my constituency, it is welcome news that the Minister for Regional Development recently announced the dualling of the A6 from Randalstown to Castledawson. I believe that that is a good-news project. The fact that it is not just an amount of money for one year but is a year-on-year commitment up to 2021 is good news; it is something that will be committed to and delivered.

The community safety college in Desertcreat is another flagship project, and the Budget provides evidence that the Executive have committed to that project. I am not going to try to pretend that a mess has not been made of this up to now. It has been long enough on the books to have been built twice or three times. How and ever, it is good that the Executive have committed to ensuring that something will be built on this site, and I look forward to see that happening, as no doubt will the others who represent that constituency.

It is unfortunate that there are Members who are making very little of these flagship projects, and I am truly surprised by that when I look at some of the other projects that are on the list. It includes the mother and children's hospital, Belfast rapid transport and the Belfast transport hub. Millions and millions of pounds have been allocated to deliver these projects, but that seems to be worthless, and no thinking has gone into this whatsoever.

I see that Mr Nesbitt is in his place. It would be wrong of me not to mention how wrong he was in making a sweeping statement prior to the Fresh Start Agreement in which he said that the deal would include half a billion pounds of borrowing and would "mortgage our children's future". Unless I have missed something, mortgages are not a bad thing.