SDLP Minister for the Environment Mark H Durkan has said that the Treasury loan of up to £100 million sought and received by the DUP to patch up a failed budget is ridiculous and irresponsible.
“The DUP, in an attempt to cover up the failures of DFP to manage the Budget sought and received a loan from the Treasury of up to £100m to attempt to patch up our escalating budget crisis.
“When the Treasury are demanding payment of fines of £87m in 2014/2015 and £114m in 2015/2016 saddling the people of Northern Ireland with more debt of up to £100m is ridiculous and irresponsible.
“The reality is that nowhere near enough to challenge the fines imposed by the Treasury because Tory welfare cuts on the most vulnerable in our communities have not yet been implemented.
“Sinn Féin may say that they will resist Tory cuts but then they go ahead and accept Tory debts.
“The DUP and Sinn Féin have attempted to put a gloss on the loan by saying that allocations will go to health and justice. The reality is that because of their failures the fines and the loan will still need to be paid and those cuts found elsewhere from the within Executive budget to pay for them.
“We are entering into a Talks process now where welfare reform will be a central part of negotiations. But with another £100m of debt to be found the situation has become even more acute. It would have made far more sense for the DUP and Sinn Féin to secure agreement from the Treasury for a suspension of the fines pending the outcome of those negotiations.
“The SDLP has been consistently clear regarding welfare reform. We recognise the need for welfare reform but will not accept unfair reform.
“The DUP and Sinn Féin need to go back to the Treasury and George Osbourne and say that we will not and cannot pay the fine until negotiations on welfare reform are concluded at the Talks. We must not be saddled with even more unsustainable debt. That is why I voted against this ridiculous and irresponsible Treasury loan.”