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Pearson warned not to underestimate consequences of under spending

6 July, 2004

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, MID Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has warned British direct rule Finance Minster Ian Pearson against underestimating the impact of departmental under spending.

Mr Molloy said:

"Ian Pearson may congratulate himself on marginal levels of under spending ˆ planned or accidental ˆ but what the figures disguise is the fact that under spending means that important projects have not got up and running; that maintenance and the capital building programme has been delayed and that vital support has not been fully distributed.

"In this context it is no surprise that the Department of Employment of Learning has an under spend of some £36 million ˆ £3million a month. We have levels of student debt and hardship that are unacceptable and we have parts of the Six Counties where long-term unemployment has not improved for generations. This is nothing to be complacent about.

"Only last week there was a damming report about the failure of the Department of Environment to protect the environment, when Sinn Féin called for the department to be stripped of such powers and the creation of an independent All Ireland Environmental Enforcement Agency. Today we see that they under spent almost £15 million pounds or 11% of their total budget. Such stark facts hardly provide compelling evidence about the success of the financial or political leadership of that department.

"I also have a particular concern about the high level of under spending on the EU Peace II programme. Discussions are underway that will be taken forward, by hopefully all of the parties, in Europe about the prospects of extending Peace II and agreement on a Peace III programme. This level of under spending hardly supports our making the case for either.

"However, the most worrying aspect about Ian Pearson‚s inability to appreciate the consequences of under spending is the reality that the Six Counties already receives a smaller percentage of all budget increases as a result of the unfair Barnett funding formula. All political parties are united in identifying the legacy of under funding by the British Treasury on our schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Any level of under spending undermines the argument for increased expenditure. It is time that the British government recognised that they have failed to invest fairly in the Six Counties and that it is time for a genuine peace dividend. If the Peace Process is to be sustained then the British government is going to have to meet its financial obligations."ENDS

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