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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance 3:30 pm, 19th January 2016

I am standing in for Judith Cochrane, who is not well today. I am new to this, a bit like the Minister.

In opening, I will say that I hope that the Minister, if he is still in place this time next year, will come up with something a bit more meaningful, well consulted on and better put together than what is before us today. It is hardly a surprise that I can confirm that the Alliance Party will oppose the Budget today on the grounds of process and substance, which are the same reasons why our Ministers opposed it. The Budget was circulated to Ministers at about 9.00 pm on 16 December in preparation for an Executive meeting at 11.00 am on 17 December. People need to sleep. Consultation was non-existent. As on previous occasions, the DUP and Sinn Féin have frankly displayed a disregard for the democratic process and contempt for the views of their nominal partners in government; namely, the three or four smaller parties. The resultant document cobbled together by two parties is not in any way strategic. We recognise that 2016-17 is a transitional year and is to be followed by a four-year Budget that will hopefully be properly consulted on and will relate to the Programme for Government. However, that is not an excuse for financial proposals that entirely miss the opportunity to begin to reform the health service budget, take necessary actions on education, address the cost of a divided society and invest in the economy.

The Minister in his opening remarks mentioned corporation tax, as just about everybody else did. The date for the devolution of corporation tax is set at 1 April 2018 and the rate is to be 12·5%. It remains to be seen how that will be financed, but is anyone listening to the explicit warnings, which others have referred to today, from our universities and further education colleges that, unless we produce graduates and output with the necessary skills, we will not be able to satisfy the demand for labour from the very companies that —