SDLP Employment and learning spokesperson Pat Ramsey MLA has said that the proposed Executive budget will suppress hope and squander opportunity for young people.
He said: “The proposed budget before the Assembly is riddled with hypocrisy and will crucially undermine our ability to provide jobs and a sustainable society for younger generations.
“While some plough ahead with plans for tax cuts for big corporations, we’re seeing the decimation of university places which fuel a highly skilled workforce capable of exploiting the benefits of new investment. It simply doesn’t add up.
“In the face of rising economic inactivity and unemployment, especially for young people, it’s imperative that we offer opportunity, hope and a sustainable future. This budget crushes hope, squanders opportunity and will roll us back decades economically, leading to increased poverty and social stagnation.
“We cannot afford to cut back on further and higher education, doing so has a crippling effect on both the resource and infrastructure needed to build a better economy. We need to prioritise skills development and to do so in a way that addresses the serious regional economic imbalance that pervades the North. In that respect, I welcome the establishment of the Ministerial sub group aimed at tackling regional inequality. But the net result of that must be a commitment to the expansion of Ulster University at Magee to attract new skills clusters which will drive job creation and seriously address the brain drain leading our young people to leave this island.
“We are trapped in a vicious cycle of underfunding skills, losing young people and failing to attract investment. This austerity budget accelerates that cycle and will seriously damage our ability to rebuild the local economy. That is why the SDLP cannot support it and will continue to robustly oppose budgets that have no coherent strategic direction.”