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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:45 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 5:45 pm, 19th January 2016

I agree with what the Member says. I should move on because time is running out, and I still have a lot to say.

Another criticism — I think that this came from Ms Hanna again, but apologies if it did not — was that the Budget is not strategic enough. Obviously, there is a difference with capital spend, whereby you can allow for some of the strategic projects that you want. However, a lot of the money that we will be spending is resource, and you are talking about a very different issue there when you come to strategic spend.

This is a one-year Budget. If we had produced a four-year Budget, Members would be complaining that we were tying the hands of the next Executive. In fact, Mrs Dobson was even upset by the fact that we are doing a one-year Budget. She thinks that that should be left up to the next Assembly. She wants a three-month Budget to cover the period up to the election. This Assembly is setting the next Assembly's Budget, and she has a problem with that.

A lot of Members talked about the cuts that we are facing, but we have to be realistic. The worst-case scenario outlined to us was a 10% cut, and, thankfully, that has not materialised. It is a 5·7% cut that a lot of Departments are facing, but we have to face up to the economic reality that we find ourselves in. Unless you are prepared to raise revenue — I heard comments from Mr Hazzard of Sinn Féin about raising revenue, and I do not want to go down that path — savings have to be made elsewhere. I challenged Mrs Dobson to outline where she would cut in order to pay for some of the things that she wants. Her response was that I had not been here long enough, and that, if I had been here a little longer, I would be better informed. That is not much of an answer.

We have helped to protect health. We have helped to protect education. We have helped to protect the police budget, which is not facing the same reductions as elsewhere. If Members are going to come to this place and say that we need to spend more and have more investment, they better come and tell us how they will spend it. This Budget provides for additional flexibilities and more monitoring rounds, which will help as a result of the departmental changes. However, I support the Budget because, overall, it is good.