Secretary of State should spell out spending priorities

DUP Communities Spokesperson Diane Forsythe has said the Secretary of State needs to spell out whether a potential £153million spend on Casement Park is a higher priority than schools and hospitals.

By Diane Forsythe MLA

South Down

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The South Down MLA said, In May the Secretary of State gave an apparent blank cheque promise on the redevelopment of Casement Park. At that time estimates were put at around £110million yet even just a few weeks later the estimate has now increased by another £60million. That is just £2million less than the total amount allocated by the Northern Ireland Executive for the redevelopment in 2011

Unlike his attitude to a stadium, Chris Heaton-Harris doesn’t have a “we’ll get you the money, don’t you worry” attitude to health, education, policing or anything else. Indeed, he told us on the 14th June that “Northern Ireland’s public finances are not on a sustainable footing". The Secretary of State has lectured people in Northern Ireland regularly about taking difficult decisions, yet it is his choice whether to fund vital public services or a sports stadium. He now needs to spell out whether he believes that spending in this area is a higher priority than the school redevelopments which have been halted due to lack of funding, or reform of the health service.

The NIO appears to be standing over a blank cheque promise whilst repeated reports from the Northern Ireland Fiscal Council have shown that the funding for public services we receive does not meet need. This again is a choice for Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office. Will they be advocates for Northern Ireland to Treasury in pressing for reform of how our vital public services are funded or will they preside over a shiny new stadium whilst seeing the axe fall on many of those much-needed services.”

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