Budget will cost Derry 500 job losses - MLA

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More than 500 jobs will go in Derry as a result of the proposed budget, it’s been claimed.

SDLP Foyle MLA Pól Callaghan has hit out at the draft budget propsosed by the DUP and Sinn Féin at Stormont as a bad move for the city.

He claims that the planned document “is full of holes and it simply isn’t fit for purpose”.

Mr Callaghan also accused the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson of being the Executive’s “clown-in-chief”, adding that the DUP minister’s statement that people will have to live with cuts in the current recession is not based in fact.

“Sammy Wilson acts as the joint spokesperson for the DUP and Sinn Féin on this issue and he has said in the Assembly that we have to live with the cuts. He is wrong and I have told him so - what we have to do is not implement them but get beyond them by using our own powers to create a better budget.”

The MLA branded the draft budget, which was due to pass another stage in the Assembly with Sinn Fein and DUP support yesterday, “a betrayal of the entire North West region”.

“That is not an SDLP view alone, it is shared by the local Chamber, by U4D and by community and trade union groups. However, it does not have to be that way and it is not too late to change it,” he added.

The SDLP has put forward a £4 billion plan on how to find the money to be lost from the cuts.

Mr Callaghan explains: “This does involve some tough choices, but by selling assets such as DRD car parks and by raising new revenues we can save the Derry-Dungiven road upgrade, deliver the Radiotherapy Centre at Altnagelvin and properly fund City of Culture.

“And we can do all this without new water charges on Derry families or the huge burden of added tuition fees on Derry’s young people.

“The people voting for the budget as it is passing through the Assembly cannot defend it when we dissect it, so the clown-in-chief Sammy Wilson attempts to treat it like a joke.

“Unfortunately it will be no joke for families in Derry.”

Mr Callaghan says his party has listened carefully to what representatives of the health, education and environment sectors have said about the impact of this budget.

He adds: “It is important that their warnings are heeded otherwise it is projected that at least 540 public sector jobs in our city will be lost.

“That means less money in the local economy, more dependence on benefits and fewer opportunities for local people to find work.

“In fact, with the disproportionately high number of education and health jobs in our city it is possible that these figures could end up worse.

“And the lesson of the past three years of first wave cuts is that many other jobs in Derry will go or be transferred elsewhere.

“Raising an axe over the jobs of local public servants is not a credible plan to ‘rebalance’ our economy – it would devastate our local economy.

“That is a scandal and no MLA who claims to defend Derry’s interests should vote for this budget unless it is hugely improved.”