29/09/2010

Roads Abandoned In Tough Economic Times

Bids worth up to £56m for roads and social housing in Northern Ireland have been rejected due to insufficient funds, it has been revealed.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy annual conference in Newcastle, Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson warned "tough times now lie ahead".

"The next four years, and perhaps beyond, are going to be one of the most difficult periods for planning public expenditure in living memory. The expenditure cuts we face are a certainty," he said.

"The continuous growth in public expenditure that we have enjoyed is over; we are in a different world now.
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"The magnitude of the expected cuts and the tough choices that have to be made mean we have to plan carefully and do it now. Pain is inevitable, but however difficult it is going to be we have to approach it in a constructive way. Wringing our hands or whinging about it won’t take us anywhere, we have to get on and deal with it. This is what people expect of us; this is what devolution is about.

"When making these tough decisions, I am firmly of the view that growing our economy must be the number one priority if we are to improve living standards locally. Our future expenditure allocations must reflect this priority."

Rejected projects include a £34m roads maintenance scheme, £22m social housing development and a Roe Valley hydro-electric scheme

The Minister warned of the importance of preparing for the impending cuts and said: "We cannot just wait the outcome of the spending review and then respond to give people the decisions they need.

"The onus is on me as Finance Minister to develop a budget that charts the proper way forward. I will do this and I will continue to work with all Executive Ministers to seek to agree our priorities and to seek out where financial savings can be made."

(GK)

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