Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has welcomed the publication of the statement on Northern Ireland's Finances.
Robin Swann said:
“A Northern Ireland Finance Minister should have been the one to produce and present this Budget, yet in the absence of a local Executive I have long believed it necessary for it to proceed through Parliament.
“Those likely to complain the loudest about this obvious and latest step towards Direct Rule are the very same people who are blocking the local institutions in the first place. In the past they have also proven themselves to be fiscally incompetent, so I suspect their morally vacuous cries will now land on deaf ears.
“Whilst this Budget will at least provide some much needed certainty, local households will see a major impact as a consequence of it. The decision to raise the Regional Rate by 4.5% will see household bills rise almost three times more than the last increase. This 2018/19 Budget is the one in which Corporation Tax was meant to have been lowered, instead it will be remembered for its inflation-busting rates hike.
“I genuinely fear however that even with these new allocations Departments still will not be able to balance the books and as a consequence will again scramble to make emergency in-year savings.
“Our health service, which now absorbs over half of the total budget, has been leaderless for well over a year – just as it has never before faced such extreme challenges. Previous additional allocation of funds have not been able to plug the widening gap between demand and capacity so I fear the additional £60m for health pressures will barely even scratch the surface. Whilst the £100m investment for health transformation may sound reassuring I fear it’s come too late, and even if it hasn’t, in the absence of a local Minister how are decisions even going to be taken?
“The continuing failure to factor in spend for the implementation of the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has also once again come as another cruel kick in the teeth for victims and survivors.
“The unusual approval by the UK Government to convert capital spending to resource in a desperate move to balance funds reminds me of the spectacle of a few years ago when Northern Ireland had to lower itself to a Wonga style loan simply to get through the year.
“There is little in the Budget to reassure me that Northern Ireland’s finances are in anyway in a sustainable state.”