Budget is welcomed, yet dismissed as continuing austerity

WAR of words between two local MLAs has broken out in response to the 2018-2019 government budget, announced last week.

East Londonderry DUP MLA George Robinson has welcomed the additional money allocated to the region in this week’s budget, while accusing Sinn Fein of “blackmailing the people of Northern Ireland.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond annonced his Autumn Budget for 2018/19 on Monday October 29, outlining a series of financial boosts for Northern Ireland.

MLA Robinson said: “Thanks to the DUP’s confidence and supply agreement with the Government, our 10 MP’s have been able to secure additional funding for Northern Ireland in the recent budget.

“These include £150m for rural broadband, £400m to build new roads, £50m targeted to improve mental health services, £10m for veterans and £100m to deal with immediate pressures in schools and hospitals.

“As the DUP MP’s are the only Northern Ireland MP’s to take their seats in Parliament it is the DUP who are delivering real cash for Northern Ireland departments.

“SF, who refuse their seats but are happy to make unrealistic criticism from the side-lines have, and will, do nothing to boost money available for Northern Ireland.

“The only thing they deliver is no representation, no government and political blackmail to the people of Northern Ireland.

“I welcome the additional money to be spent to address the very real pressures being experienced in particular Education and health.

“The DUP have fought hard to deliver this expanded Budget for Northern Ireland and due to our attendance in Westminster have proven our case and delivered real money for Northern Ireland.

“We will also ensure that the funding is invested in the right places to benefit all the people of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Robinson concluded: “I will take no criticism on our success in securing funding for Northern Ireland from a party who deny democracy by collapsing government in Stormont for purely selfish reasons which benefits only them.”

Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald told the Northern Constitution her party find it strange that anyone would be taking credit for a rise in poverty.

Ms Archibald said : “It is strange that anyone would be claiming credit for another cruel austerity budget which has delivered absolutely nothing to end the financial crisis in schools and the health service.

“This budget, delivered by Philip Hammond with the full backing of the DUP, has seen parents funding primary schools, an increase in homelessness and a rise in poverty.

“George Robinson and the DUP should hang their heads in shame.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance confirmed last weeks Budget did provide funding as agreed in the Conservative/DUP agreement.

The spokesperson said: “The 2018-19 Budget contained the following elements as set out in the financial annex to the Confidence and Supply agreement:

· £100 million for health transformation;

· £20 million for severe deprivation programmes,

· £10 million for mental health services;

· £80 million in health and education pressures.

· £200 million for infrastructure

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