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Sinn Féin draft Budget response - accountable politicians should be making the hard choices

25 October, 2005

Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that local politicians should be making the hard choices that will have long term implications for the future of the Six Counties.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The course being plotted by unaccountable direct rule ministers is not sustainable in the long-term. Plans to increase expenditure on children, education, training and renewable energy will only come at a cost to other services. There is a huge dependency on PFI to deliver investment. Yet the evidence shows that PFI has failed to deliver and that this type of privatisation has seen costs escalate and the creation of a financial straightjacket that severely restricts future flexibility.

"The threat of inflation busting 19% rates increases and water taxes to follow should not be taken lightly. The British government appear to be intent on penalising us all because the DUP are dragging their feet in getting the Assembly back up and running. Local politicians should be the ones making tough choices about rates and services.

"Peter Hain complains about levels of local revenue raised and the multi-billion British Exchequer subvention. Yet wage levels are lower here, the cost of living is higher, energy costs are higher, and electricity is more expensive. These are the consequences of British misadministration.

"If Peter Hain doesn't want to take responsibility for the cost of the British presence in this part of Ireland he only has to say so. Sinn Féin have long argued that the 6 county statelet is unsustainable. There is also a growing recognition that being ruled from London is not just bad for the local economy, bad for our young people and bad for our rural communities - being ruled from London is bad for our future.

Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson said:

"When direct rule minister announced their decision to scrap ring fenced Executive Programme Funds they were told that it was a mistake. The decision to ring-fence three priority areas is a recognition that they got it wrong in the first place. While I welcome ring-fenced investment in education and training the reality is that our per capita spend in these areas is low in comparison to need. We are still falling far short of what is required to give our young people the best start in life.

Sinn Féin Children's Spokesperson, Sue Ramsey MLA said:

"The decision to scrap the Children's Fund was stupid. Peter Hain at least now recognises the mistakes of his predecessors. However, the ring-fenced expenditure is too little to have the desired impact.

Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson, North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said:

"Sinn Fein welcome ring fenced money to develop renewable energy. In particular we would like to see an emphasis on ensuring that this emerging market creates opportunities for those struggling in the farming sector. We would also like to the DoE to be stripped of all powers in relation to enforcement, and the creation of an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that the principle of polluter pays is upheld. We would also like to see the extension of the plastic bag tax that has been hugely successful in the south as a way of reducing use and raising revenue.

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said:

"Any increase in health expenditure must be welcomed. However it must be matched by the will to stop spending money of bureaucrats obsessed with meaningless new Labour Targets and to make sure that resources are spent on frontline personnel who actually deliver services. The truth is that many of the cost drivers - outside forces drive pay deals, GP and consultant contracts and drug cost. Once these pressures are taken away the health budget increases look far less significant.

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Francie Molloy MLA said:

"The British government have not made the case to the imposition of water taxes. Instead they are now trying to threaten and cajole people into accepting the unacceptable. The truth is that successive British governments have failed to deliver the required investment. The British government is now trying to penalise us for their mistakes and failures.

"British government policy means that the poorest in our society are already disadvantaged. The proposal to increase rates by 19% is just the thin end of the wedge." ENDS

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