SDLP hits out at 'lazy' draft Budget

The SDLP have branded the draft Budget lazy and unimaginative – heightening fears of a Stormont split on the crucial legislation.

The SDLP have branded the draft Budget lazy and unimaginative – heightening fears of a Stormont split on the crucial legislation.

The Ulster Unionist Party is considering voting against the four-year spending plan.

Today the SDLP accused the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin of lashing out at anybody who questioned them.

Leader Margaret Ritchie said: “Our complaint, and the complaint of very many other stakeholders, is that this lazy and unimaginative budget should be so much better.

“And we believe that SDLP proposals for new revenue streams, capital receipts and cash-releasing efficiency savings, can indeed make the budget so much better.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has accused the UUP and SDLP of electioneering and adopting populist positions. It comes amid deepening divisions within the Executive regarding the Budget.

On Friday, Mr McGuinness said UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood had criticised the proposals at every opportunity.

Ms Ritchie said: “Devolution was supposed to make a difference – but the DUP/Sinn Féin draft Budget we have before us simply does not address the real needs of the North.

“It is indistinguishable from the budget that would have been handed down under direct rule. There is no real attempt to mitigate the Tory cuts.”

The Department of Finance argues it has protected spending on health, prioritised economic growth, shifted £250m (€296.7m) from current expenditure to capital to support the construction industry and supported frontline services while seeking efficiencies across government.

Mr McGimpsey has been vocal in his criticism of his draft allocation, which he claims could lead to thousands of health service job losses. His party leader Tom Elliott has called for an end to mandatory coalition government.

Ms Ritchie said: “The DUP and Sinn Féin must recognise that our top priority has to be economic development and jobs, alongside protection of vulnerable households and front-line services.

“We are absolutely duty-bound to use the budget, our only real economic lever, to rebalance and stimulate the economy with a focus on job creation. I don’t believe there has been any real effort to do this.”

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