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Muir: Nowhere to hide from blindfold budget

Alliance Finance Spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said the failure to face up to the “hard and potentially unpopular” decisions simply wasn’t an option anymore, as MLAs debated the Budget Bill.

Naming it a “blindfold budget”, Mr Muir said MLAs had to make decisions without any clear view of what the year ahead may bring.

The MLA for North Down was speaking during the debate on Tuesday afternoon.

He added: “As we move towards a gradual relaxing of lockdown in coming weeks, with it comes concerns of how successful we’ll be at keeping R under one, added to the risk of a No Deal Brexit through the failure of trade negotiations, and the fact the Assembly was already facing extreme financial pressure after a three year hiatus”.

“You only have to take a quick review of the bids from individual Departments due to Covid-19, against the actual monies available from additional Barnett consequentials and allocations made to date to recognise the signs of a financial crisis of unparalleled measure if further monies are not forthcoming via Barnett conseqentials”

“Without additional funding coming forward a way needs to be found to ensure Executive Departments can continue to operate on a sound financial basis not just now but throughout and till the end of this year to ensure front line public services continue to be delivered by workers who must be properly and fairly paid.

“We must also see this budget with eyes that go beyond the immediate Covid-19 crisis, but to the future in a post pandemic era.

“A well-thought out stimulus plan and targeted investment could be the difference between short recession and long depression, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of citizens.

“Whether it’s tackling the Cost of Division, implementing Bengoa, mutualisation of NI Water or delivering modern working arrangements fit for 2020 failure to face up to the hard and potentially unpopular decisions just isn’t an option anymore – there is no road left to kick the can down. COVID-19 provides more, not less, reason to urgently reform our public services.”