Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:45 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party 6:45 pm, 9th February 2016

I will. I pointed out some last night, and colleagues will point them out. As I said, we are not opposed, but if you would be more specific and tell us exactly what you are spending the money on, as other Parliaments and Houses do, it would be easier to set out the alternatives. What are the big ideas? If you can tell me what the big, creative ideas in the Budget are, and provide the detail of those, it will allow us to more effectively scrutinise them. The fact is that you are giving us figures like £1·9 billion, without the detail. How can we set out the alternative without knowing what your alternative is and what exactly you are going to do with that money.

I want to pick up, briefly, a couple of the points that I raised yesterday, and which you responded to, Minister, in winding up the debate. We are still not sure about the £5 million added and the £10 million off skills. You also mentioned a potential £20 million in the June monitoring round. We still do not understand why there is all of that shuffling about. If that money is for anything other than departmental use and getting used to the changes in Departments, why is it not being allocated now?

I also raised the increased funding for the Strategic Investment Board and was told that £2·5 million of it was for Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) and the Urban Villages project. In the absence of further detail, I took to Google, this afternoon, and learned that:

"SIB are creating an Urban Village team that will support OFMDFM and DSD in the development of the Urban Villages ... enabling early momentum projects and identifying projects for capital investment".

I am open to correction, but that sounds a lot like administration, coming in an OFMDFM budget which, as we know, is quite administration-heavy; the administration budget of which, as I pointed out yesterday, has gone up, year on year. Yesterday, I also pointed out a better use for that money. Some £880,000 could support the women's centre childcare fund. Adequate childcare would unlock a lot of possibilities for families, women and working people. As I pointed out yesterday, Scotland, and even the Conservative Party in London, are providing a lot better for working families in that respect.

We also expressed our dismay about the decision to spend more on redundancies and the failure to create conditions for creating jobs, as well as the failure to give security of funding on flagship projects like the A5 and the A6 and an explanation as to how those projects are going to be funded during their lifetime. I will defer. My colleagues will outline those specific projects, and I guarantee that they will be clearer than I am on the locational differences between Crawfordsburn and Castledawson in relation to that project.