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McLaughlin welcomes Executive's Economic package

15 December, 2008

Speaking following the Executive announcement on financial measures being introduced to address the present economic downturn Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said:

"I welcome the measures announced by the Executive this morning. While it is understandable that many would have liked to see more extensive measures it must be recognised that the Executive has limited direct responsibility for many of the issues currently affecting the economy.

"I do however, believe that these measures will go some way to help alleviate the impact of the economic downturn.

"I believe that the emerging financial pressures make it all the more vital that maximum impact and value for money is achieved from the limited resources available. This will require improved performance by the public sector in managing resources and programmes and in achieving business targets. To this end, a number of immediate and longer term measures will be required. In particular, given the current economic climate, it will be intolerable if previous patterns of departmental underspend are repeated at the end of the current financial year.

"If we are to achieve best practice and value for money spending, an immediate and concerted effort will need to be made by all departments, and by their respective scrutiny committees to ensure the effective management of the limited resources available to departments. Also in the immediate term the Department of Finance and Personnel should take the lead in identifying pre-emptive measures which can be taken over the next four months to safeguard against significant year-end underspend by Departments.

"Delays in capital projects can add significantly, both directly and indirectly, to overall costs and steps need to be taken to ensure the effective planning and management of capital projects, with a view to minimising delays and resultant underspend. The Executive now has an opportunity to accelerate £86.5m capital expenditure into 2008/09 and 2009/10, effectively bringing forward spend which was earmarked for 2010/11 into the current and following financial years.

"I also welcome the recently agreed terms of reference for an inquiry into public procurement practice by the Assembly's Finance Committee. In terms of the current downturn, this will examine the scope for increasing the capacity of Small and Medium Enterprises and Social Economy Enterprises to compete for public contracts; and the consequences of undue delays in progressing procurement contracts, especially in terms of the impact on the construction sector of delays in planned capital expenditure." ENDS

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