Budget limitation should not limit thinking
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson speaking ahead of the Assembly debate on the draft Budget has said that tackling inequality and protecting the most vulnerable must be a key objective of the budget.
Ms Anderson said:
"Within the confines of the block grant from Westminster - Margaret Ritchie, like all other Ministers, has to make choices. Yet nearly 25% of households are unable to afford adequate home heating and 3,000 people die prematurely as a result of disadvantage and poverty - shocking facts.
"This reality has to change. Current economic patterns have to change and it is the task of the Assembly to ensure that this is done, but how are we going to do it?
"Let me take an example - fuel poverty. We've had two Assembly debates on this and a guarantee that Government will work to eradicate fuel poverty by 2010 in vulnerable households and 2016 in all households. But now we have headlines that the Social Development Minister wants to cut the Warm Home Schemes by £10 million or 50%.
"We have already seen other Ministers come up with imaginative solutions to financial pressures and for example within DSD we have more assets than within any other department. It is time for leadership and imagination.
"The limitations of this budget come because it is set by a British Treasury which cares nothing about anyone here. But, while a comprehensive spending review means Ministers have to make difficult budgetary choices they must still stand over these choices.
"The limitations of the budget should not limit thinking. We need to look beyond the current confines and push for greater independence. Indeed Sinn Fein believes that none of these issues will never be addressed within a Six County context." ENDS