Local war of words follows publication of Budget report

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A war of words has erupted between the SDLP and Sinn Fein MLAs in Derry over the long awaited publication of the North’s Budget.

Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson accused the SDLP of “sound bite economics which have not produced one penny” for public services after Margaret Ritchie’s party voted against the Executive Budget

However, SDLP assemblyman Pól Callaghan has hit back, claiming that the Budget “ignores the views of the people of Derry expressed in the consultation period”, adding that “it reflects the old pattern of Stormont treating Derry as an afterthought”.

Mr Callaghan went even further in his criticism, stating that the Budget “is a betrayal of Derry and the wider Northwest”.

“Our people will pay a heavy price for its lack of ambition and rejection of good suggestions. It will mean cuts to frontline public services in our city, the loss of over 500 public sector jobs in Derry and the abandonment of vulnerable local people hit by the Tory welfare cuts.”

He highlighted that the financial plan has given “no certainty” over the Altnagelvin Radiotherapy Centre, no events funding to harness the potential of City of Culture, no money allocation to expand Magee Campus while leaving the Derry-Dungiven road upgrade on the shelf.

“Forty-seven years on from the first University for Derry campaign and from the abandoned plan to build a motorway here, the people of Derry will ask what has really changed?” he added.

But Ms Anderson launched a broadside on the SDLP which she accused of “selfish party political posturing”.

“They have failed once again to produce alternative costed proposals to the Executive Budget they voted against.

“Pre-election rhetoric is fine but these sound bite economics have not produced one penny for public services or to stimulate the economy.”

She added: “The SDLP amendment, at the eleventh hour, was an example of its cynical soundbite politics designed simply to put narrow party politics above the needs of the people.

“If they were serious about their criticisms of the Budget, then what was required from the SDLP and the UUP was a credible alternative, which they failed to produce.

“Neither the SDLP nor the UUP put forward one single proposal to the Budget Review Group (BRG) dealing with the Budget - of which they were both members.”

SDLP employment and learning spokesperson, assemblyman Pat Ramsey, was particularly concerned with the £50 million allocation to the Department of Employment and Learning which he says is not enough to facilitate the expansion of Magee campus.

“The University of Ulster Magee campus - in order to lift the MaSN cap - a key economic indicator of the Ilex Regeneration plan for the city, the University would require £8million to increase their student numbers by 1000 - something that would bring economic benefits to the city and region - but of course, this Sinn Féin/DUP budget can’t deliver it.” He also criticised a lack of funding for adult apprenticeship schemes in the North West.