McElduff criticises handling of environmental cuts
Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has criticised environment minister Mark H Durkan for his handling of budget cuts in his department.
Speaking after a meeting of the Assembly's health committee, Mr McElduff said;
"At today's meeting of the environment committee I questioned the minister and his officials over his poor handling of reductions in his department's budget.
"Firstly, the minister did not appear to take account of the £800,000 raised through the plastic bag levy challenge fund until now. Surely this could have been used earlier to offset some of these reductions.
"Mark Durkan is now also saying that he will be able to redirect money as a result of the voluntary exit scheme but has failed to make even outline projections for this.
"All of this shows a lack of creativity and forward planning.
"The announcement of these budget cuts, which will see many environmental organisations lose all or nearly all of their funding, was very insensitive with letters detailing the cuts going to administrative staff in many cases.
"Many of these groups, such as the Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trail in my own constituency of West Tyrone, have warned that they could lose match funding from Europe.
"I have asked the minister to come back before the committee before the end of April with detailed plans of how the money raised through the plastic bag levy, and any other money identified, will be allocated."