Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Budget: Figures react

Peter Robinson, Sammy Wilson and Martin McGuinness
Peter Robinson, Sammy Wilson and Martin McGuinness announced the agreement on the draft budget on Tuesday night

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has unveiled a draft budget proposal aimed at saving the Northern Ireland Executive £4bn in the next four years.

He described the deal as a "good Christmas present for the people of Northern Ireland".

Public bodies and politicians have been giving their reaction to the eight page document.

Margaret Ritchie, SDLP leader

"We have been calling for that draft budget not for one year but for the next four years because it brings not just political stability but stability to the local economy and people who have suffered immensurable financial burdens over the last number of months.

"There are several areas that we welcome, the whole area to do with the Harbour Commission and the sale of carparks. I very much welcome the Social Protection fund, which was brought forward by my colleague Alex Attwood.

"But there are areas that are not included such as pupil premium, tuition fees, the whole area to deal with housing provision."

Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein, Regional Development minister

"We wanted to continue to protect society here, to continue to adhere to the elements of the programme of government which we collectively had put together and that was to grow the economy, to protect the most vulnerable in society.

"I think we have managed through very difficult work over the past number of weeks - and it has not been easy at all for any of the parties - we have managed to supplement what was a savage programme of cuts to try and protect what was important to us."

David McNarry, Ulster Unionist finance spokesman

"Our party's ministers on the Executive only received the paper last night - obviously it is right and proper to take time to study it in a constructive manner.

"We will be engaging with various sectors and stakeholders to examine the impact of the Budget on the wider community.

"This however is not just a budget paper solely based on the distribution of existing resources - this is a comprehensive paper that includes significant strategic policy proposals - for example proposals have been put forward on the Education and Skills Authority, Belfast Port and the Bain Review.

"The detail behind these proposals needs to be published and scrutinised by Assembly Committees."

Stephen Farry, Alliance MLA

"I am certainly not euphoric today because I appreciate there is a lot of pain for a lot of people and it is important that we are honest and frank about that.

"It is also important that we stress this is more than an ideas paper coming out from the Executive in terms of a paper for consultation. This does have the endorsement of the Executive as in essence the road map for the next four years.

"It is important the people of Northern Ireland now have their say and try to influence the debate over the next few weeks."

David Vance, TUV finance spokesman

"The big issues haven't been tackled and many difficult issues have been put off until after the election.

"Quangoes should have been slashed now. Instead we only have a review. They have failed to go after the fat-cats instead attacking those who are the most vulnerable.

"Nor is there any mention of a reduction in the number of MLAs. And isn't it interesting that while civil servants face a mandatory pay freeze MLAs will only have to have a voluntary reduction."

Bumper Graham, NI Public Service Alliance (Nipsa)

"The people of Northern Ireland don't want the NI Executive delivering the Cameron, Clegg, Osborne Christmas present of cuts, attacks and higher taxes.

"What is needed is a robust campaign of joint opposition to these cuts and not Sammy Wilson acting as a combination of Mr Bumble and Ebenezer Scrooge on behalf of the Westminster Government.

"This draft budget will do untold damage to every Community with job losses in the tens of thousands and severe reductions in both the availability and quality of essential public services.

Patricia McKeown, Unison

"I think the Finance Minister needs to get real. First of all if you are a health and social care worker, if your are a non-teaching worker in education, if you are in a local government job in Northern Ireland you are already facing a pay freeze.

"Secondly, he said very explicitly he was protecting the heath element only of the budget. This is an extensive, integrated health and social care system.

"The people who are most in need in this community, the people who have just had welfare cuts and the vulnerable people need the personal social services and social care element of that budget just to keep going."

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

"We have no comment to make on the matter at the moment.

"We are looking forward to reviewing the detail of the budget as it pertains to Belfast Harbour and cooperating closely with the Executive as they bring forward any necessary legislative changes."

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