Assembly to debate £5bn cuts in spending


THE STORMONT Assembly meets later today to debate last week’s spending cuts announcement which will take, according to First Minister Peter Robinson, some £5 billion (€5.6 billion) from the Northern economy over the next four years.

This figure, up on the original £4 billion estimate by Minister for Finance Sammy Wilson, includes benefit cuts, rises in retirement ages and tax hikes. Some 15,000 trade unionists took to the streets of Belfast on Saturday to protest against the fiscal measures. However, this was dismissed by Mr Wilson as “a waste of time”.

Peter Bunting of the Northern Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions told the rally outside Belfast City Hall: “What annoys Sammy Wilson most is you being here. Sammy wants us to sit down, shut up and take our medicine – like good patients for his prescription of austerity and privatisation. However, this is not medicine, but poison.” In a speech at the weekend to members of the independent retail sector, Mr Robinson warned that “the cuts we are facing cannot be wished away or spun away”.

Setting out details of his £5 billion estimate, the DUP leader said retailers did not need to be warned of the impact of such a cut in spending. Pointing to the need for the five Executive parties to agree a strategy, Mr Robinson said: “I would contend that we cannot accept that our infrastructure investment programme will be pegged back by 40 per cent.”