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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin 4:30 pm, 19th January 2016

I thank the Member for his intervention. I was in the Chamber earlier for this point as well. They are new posts. They are posts that were not filled by the 500 people who will be leaving through early retirement. If those posts were not created with this money, the 500 people would not go out, so they are new posts. I thank the Member for his intervention nonetheless.

As I said, area planning and school transport are just two issues where Education is going to have massive challenges. We are seeing a far greater need to utilise the block grant to its maximum effect. As we go forward over the next number of years, we are going to have to see that. We are going to have to see real, proper financial targeting and an outcomes-based approach that really demonstrates changes. All too often, we have not seen that. There has been some criticism around various programmes of late. We are going to have to see a vast improvement.

Another area, of course, is revenue raising. This institution is going to have to seriously look at revenue raising. I ask that we follow the principles of targeting revenue raising at those who can pay. It is not going to be enough to simply have a blanket approach and make everyone pay; we are going to have to be innovative and creative when it comes to revenue raising. At the end of the day, if austerity from Westminster is going to be the calling card, we are going to have to protect our own Budget and stand on our own feet.

Finally, it is about putting alternatives on paper. It is about standing over ideas. That is where we see a complete failure from the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists here today. Colum Eastwood said that it is about choices. Let us have the choices. We are not hearing the choices at all. I noticed that a large number of SDLP members managed to find their way to Dublin at the weekend for the Fianna Fáil ard-fheis. If it were a political party standing for election in the South, and they went into a TV studio and criticised the Budget, the first question that they would be asked is, "Where is your costed alternative?". Never once has the SDLP produced a costed alternative in document form and gone to the media to say, "There's our costed alternative. If you don't like what you're getting from the Executive, there's our costed alternative". The reason is that the SDLP is in the Executive.

Mike Nesbitt said that it is light on detail. Again, from what we have heard today, the Ulster Unionist Party is completely light on detail. We have heard absolutely no alternatives. Not one solution has been forwarded today. Not once has it been said, "X is wrong, so we offer you y". That simply does not come into the equation.