Ulster Unionist economy spokesperson, Adrian Cochrane-Watson MLA has criticised the budget settlement for 2016/17 announced by the Finance Minister, as being inadequate in terms of the wider economy of Northern Ireland.
Mr Cochrane-Watson said;
“The reality of the ever closer union of DUP and Sinn Fein in this increasingly discredited Executive is revealed in the announcement of the 2016/17 budget. A written statement issued during the Christmas recess, reported as an agreed one year budget for 2016/17, despite two Executive parties instantly rejecting it. This is no way to run a devolved government.
“There is talk of a debate and vote in January, but the reality is that DUP and Sinn Fein have agreed the budget and will force it through with the minimum of discussion and no consultation.
“Whilst the statement is bereft of detail, the new Department of the Economy does not feature highly. It is quite clear that the priority is keeping finance close to the centre, and ignoring the economic challenges in terms of youth unemployment, economic inactivity, over reliance on welfare and the need for investment in skills and training. An allocation of £5 million to the Department for the Economy for the ‘skills agenda’ is wholly inadequate.
“There is no sign that the outgoing Executive is doing anything meaningful to gear the Northern Ireland economy up for the opportunities and challenges which face us with the prospect of a cut to Corporation Tax coming in on 1 April 2018. There is no sign of a vision for the Northern Ireland economy in the 2016/17 budget.”