SDLP Stormont Leader Matthew O’Toole has said blunt financial threats issued by the Secretary of State highlight the idiocy of the DUP’s handing over of power to the Tory Government.
The South Belfast MLA was speaking as Chris Heaton-Harris used powers to direct devolved permanent secretaries to provide information on revenue raising options, with the apparent aim of pressurising the DUP back into the Executive.
O’Toole added that the SDLP’s recent Triple Lock proposals would avoid the need for the harsh and sudden measures being scoped by the Tory Government, while ensuring a more sustainable and accountable approach to managing public money than in the past.
The Opposition leader said many of the measures would heap further misery on families across the North, especially if imposed in the absence of any mitigations or a wider Programme for Government.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said:
“It is clear that we need to do better at delivering public services in Northern Ireland, but today’s crude intervention from Chris Heaton-Harris is nothing more than a blunt attempt to make working families pay the price of the DUP’s boycott of Government.
“This region remains the most economically fragile in these islands, with high levels of depravation and economic inactivity and low levels of disposable income. To simply heap costs on working families is no way to address those challenges. Indeed, it will only make things worse. Of course, it is the DUP boycott which has handed the Tory Government the power to make these threats. There was never any justification for their boycott, but it is now beyond indefensible.
“The SDLP’s Triple Lock proposals would allow us to address many of the problems we are facing without passing the costs directly on to those who can least afford it. It would stop harsh cuts being imposed in the absence of an Executive and Assembly, provide funding to undertake much needed reform when our institutions are restored and grant additional legal powers to the NI Fiscal Council allowing it to hold the Executive accountable for both improving financial performance – including raising revenue where appropriate – and properly improving public services.
"Northern Ireland needs a functioning devolved Government with a serious and strategic Programme for Government, with the SDLP playing its part as a constructive opposition. The last thing we need is more crude Tory austerity as a result of DUP nihilism."