6 September 2007 Edition

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Fiscal 'freedoms' likely to dominate Assembly Agenda

Mitchel McLaughlin

Mitchel McLaughlin

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the debate about how investment and the manner in which public services are financed is likely to dominate this session of the Assembly.
“In this session we will be looking at the first Budget and Progamme for Government agreed and debated by local politicians for a number of years. Setting funding and policy priorities will be the first big test of how we can make a difference on the key issues such as education, health, housing and the economy” McLaughlin, who chairs the Assembly Finance Committee said.
“There are also key issues such as water charges, the review of rating, the Varney Review, industrial de-rating and the use of private finance for our public investment, all of which depend on our ability to utilise the available financial resources.
“But at the heart of all of these issues will be the debate about what freedom we have – about our level of fiscal freedom.
“Sinn Féin are not alone in seeking much greater fiscal freedom; in wanting the Executive to have Tax Varying Powers. We also want to see an Executive with the ability to develop an Executive Borrowing Facility.
“These fiscal freedoms can unlock our potential to set our own funding priorities. They would also be an essential component for developing a radical plan of action to tackle deprivation and ensure long-term economic development.
“Without them we will be set up to fail. Huge funding gaps will appear across the public spending programme and we will be forced to rely to a greater degree on private finance to develop investment in essential infrastructure.
“There are many tough choices facing us. Without moving to develop greater fiscal freedom we will be fighting with one hand tied behind our collective back.”

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