Ritchie: Sinn Féin/DUP Want £80 Million 'Slush Fund'

[caption id="attachment_15055" align="alignleft" width="221" caption="South Down MP Margaret Ritchie presented the SDLP's arguments during the budget debate in the Assembly. "][/caption] “The SDLP believe we can mitigate the cuts and our ideas are included in our budget document ‘Partnership and Economic Recovery.’ This paper contains detailed proposals for additional new revenue streams and receipts and for cash-releasing efficiency savings. “The draft budget does not contain any proposals to move assets and activities from public to private sector. There is no plan to generate jobs in the short-term and to get the economy moving. By contrast the SDLP’s document is bursting with ideas. “We should be selling government-owned car parks and dispose of other assets which have a revenue stream. We should not be dogmatic about the transfer of Belfast port, or a proportion of foster assets or any appropriate infrastructure out of State control.” Ms Ritchie also said that the SDLP would “mutualise Northern Ireland Water ” to make it perform to commercial standards in the public interest rather than shareholder gain. She also added there must be more investment in the tourism and construction sectors and indigenous jobs. “Put simply – the draft budget is not joined up. It has its origins in private negotiations between Sinn Féin and the DUP. As a result we have a health Minister who has been allocated a capital budget to build a cancer centre in Derry but no money to build it. We face the unacceptable prospect of hiking student fees which will only start to make third-level education the preserve of the rich once again. And the housing budget has been cut by 40 per cent even though house building is integral to stimulating jobs. “Despite such shortfalls in health, education, student finance and housing there is £80 million for a new Sinn Féin/DUP community fund to be directed to their chosen groups – this can only be described as a slush fund which is a disgrace. “The SDLP will not be territorial about the budget. We have listed the improvements needed and we have shown how they can be achieved. We hope the Executive will work to arrive at a final budget that the SDLP can support,” Ms Ritchie added.]]>