Stormont agrees draft budget
After weeks of delays, the DUP and Sinn Féin have signed up to the draft budget to meet 4 billion pounds (4.7 billion euro) in savings demanded by British exchequer chancellor George Osborne.
The plan will cut current spending in the Six Counties by 8 per cent and capital spending by 40 per cent over the next four years.
The agreement was reached late on Tuesday for budgets for the next four years to 2015. The Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and Alliance were also involved in the negotiations.
The proposals include a pay freeze for thousands of civil servants, the sale of state assets worth hundreds of millions of pounds, inflation-linked increases in domestic and business rates and a 15p plastic bag levy. There will be no water charges over the next four years.
Mr Wilson said the Six-County Executive had passed a “litmus test” in agreeing the draft budget, especially when considered against concerns that agreement would be impossible.
“This is an important day for the new devolved arrangements. I believe it is the day that the Executive came of age,” said Mr Wilson.
Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the administration had ‘risen to the challenge’ posed by the Tory/Lib Dem cuts.
“The Executive showed real leadership,” he said. “The Executive has shown decisive leadership and has faced up to these very difficult challenges.”
éirígí’s Breandán Mac Cionnaith has called on the Stormont parties to “let the British government do its own dirty work” in relation to the cutbacks in public services.
Mr Mac Cionnath said Sinn Fein should have refuse to administer the cuts and “join the rest of us on the streets in a campaign of resistance”.
“A failure to let the British government do its own dirty work and, worse, deciding where best to implement the cuts can only lead working people to conclude that what has happened over the last number of weeks at Stormont has been nothing but meaningless posturing.
“Despite the spin being put on Stormont’s draft budget, it is clear that the Six County executive has totally failed to challenge the British government assault on working class communities and on the most vulnerable in our society.
“Instead, the Six County executive has acquiesced with the British government in administering massive cut-backs.
“In essence, all that the Stormont executive has managed to deliver today are further attacks on public service workers and further decreases in household income values for the vast majority of families across the Six Counties as a result of increased domestic rates and the introduction of new stealth taxes.
On the day that the budget was published, unemployment figures in the Six Counties again rose to 58,500 people. Not included in that official figure were another 40-50,000 people who are also seeking work but are not entitled to Job Seekers Allowance.
Mr Mac Cionnaith said the Six County administration was refusing to admit to the scale of the unemployment problem.
“Stormont’s economic agenda is clearly designed in Britain and implemented without question by the establishment parties in the Six County executive,” he said.
“The increasingly obvious signal is that a new political, economic and social order is required right across Ireland to bring radical, meaningful and effective improvement to the lives of working class people. Stormont is a clear impediment to that.”