Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Lack of fiscal powers inhibits reaction to recession

2 March, 2009

Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee, Paul Butler, has stated today that the main point that should be taken from the visit to the Assembly by the British Treasury Select Committee is that it highlights the severe lack of fiscal powers for local representatives to react to economic downturn.

Speaking today Mr Butler said:

"The key point highlighted today is the fact that the Assembly lacks fiscal abilities to explore the full range of initiatives and responses to the severe economic downturn. The Assembly and Executive are more restricted than they should be to help industry, compel banks to act and to alter the way public finances are administered.

"We need to see the Minister for Finance meet his counterparts in other regional assemblies to argue the case for a united approach towards the British treasury to relax the accounting rules permitting front loading and acceleration of public expenditure programmes.

"One of the positives coming from this meeting is that the committee chairman John McFall has stated that he will now examine the accounting rules.

"This would have major advantages. It would strengthen the retention of skills capacity, keeping the local work force in employment. It would also enable the early delivery of vital capital projects, in some instances an entire year before planned helping to kick-start the economy.

"This would be of no cost to the budget. In fact it would allow payments to be drawn down in the budget years in which the programmes were designated.

"Taking these things together, locally elected representatives would be much better placed to weather the economic crisis and we would not have to wait on Westminster to raise our financial concerns."

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