Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Executive budget passed by Assembly

Sammy Wilson
Image caption Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said he had explored every avenue for extra money

The NI Executive budget for the next four years has been passed by the Assembly by 67 votes to 31.

Earlier, last minute amendments proposed by the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP were defeated.

Seven hours had been set aside for the final budget debate on Wednesday.

The budget, sought to offset cuts by identifying more than £1bn in revenue-raising ideas, but opponents have claimed the financial blueprint does not stand up to scrutiny.

The budget vote was carried with the support of DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance votes together with a single independent - the North Down unionist Alan McFarland.

The Ulster Unionist ministers, Michael McGimpsey and Danny Kennedy voted against the budget, while SDLP minister Alex Attwood abstained.

Although the Ulster Unionist ministers breached the ministerial code with their vote, it appears no action will be taken against them.

Earlier, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said he had explored every avenue for extra money and accused his critics of having no alternatives.

The Ulster Unionist Party had tabled an amendment calling for £165m extra to be allocated to the health service in the first year of the new budget.

Last week, the DUP finance minister offered Health Minister Michael McGimpsey an additional £120m over four years.

During the debate, Mr Wilson criticised Mr McGimpsey.

"I still find it disgraceful that the health minister can seek to justify his action, or maybe rather inaction, in the media when he has never approached his Executive colleagues with any plans to make the health service delivery more efficient in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I have said many times that I would welcome all new ideas but sadly nothing realistic has emerged from my loudest critics.

"Any ideas that have emerged are often contradictory or display a profound degree of ignorance of the public expenditure regime that the devolved administrations have to operate within.

"So, unlike my critics, I didn't have the luxury of being able to construct a budget that wasn't earthed in reality."

However, Ulster Unionist David McNarry said the proposed budget, which was largely drawn up by the DUP and Sinn Fein, should be revised.


"I urge the house to rethink, before the unthinkable results in public outrage and deep despair," he said

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie also tabled an amendment calling for the proposals to include a strategy for raising revenue.

"This budget fails the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

"It is a formula for thousands of job losses and it will heap a mountain of misery on vulnerable households."

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