'Don't Rush Budget', Says McGuinness

It has emerged that the North's Executive Ministers are to review progress on budget discussions this afternoon - with a report from Stormont's own specialised review committee expected to be presented.

Earlier, the First Minister Peter Robinson's insistence on the need for the Executive to agree a budget quickly came in for criticism.

The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: "I agree there is a need to agree a budget and that the Executive must work collectively.

"But the budget we agree has to be the right budget, a budget that grows the economy out of recession, which safeguards public services and tackles disadvantage.

"We cannot be rushed into bringing forward a budget that fails the community, dismantles public services and deepens the economy crisis," he said.

"We have brought forward ideas for recovery; many have been supported by the other parties. We also need clarity on the powers we will have to raise the revenue required to invest in growth and public services. This is an essential element of the budget," the Sinn Fein Minister said, noting that they had a meeting with NIO Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, "in which there was a lack of clarity on the position of the Tory-led government with regard to building our economy".

"We want to work with all parties, we want to provide financial clarity and we want to agree a budget.

"However it must be the right budget and not a rushed job. It must be a budget which counters the blow inflicted on us by the Tories," Mr McGuinness said last night.

The DUP leader, Peter Robinson has already said that NI is dealing with arguably the greatest economic threat Northern Ireland has ever faced.

"This is a test which the Executive and Assembly cannot afford to fail. The budget needs to be finalised quickly in order to offer the necessary consultation before it is presented to the Assembly for approval.

"Time is not on our side, but I am determined that devolved government will mean responsible government. It is not responsible to leave departments in the dark about their future funding until the eleventh hour of an outgoing financial year," he said.

"Of course, every party around the Executive table has its own ideas about how to respond to the challenges we face.

"Some believe in tax and spend and some in slash and burn. But as a former Finance Minister, who successfully introduced a four-year budget in 2007, I have seen and heard it all before," he said.

"The economy is in a greater crisis now and the public have a right to demand and expect of its representatives that they set aside party and personal axes and work together - collectively and in co-operation - to agree a four-year budget.

"I believe we can agree a budget. I hope all parties will join in that collective pursuit."

On Monday, the current Stormont Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson said that an emergency budget may be needed if the NI Executive fails to agree a draft budget.

He said the deadline was fast approaching for a budget to be passed and implemented in time for the end of the financial year and noted that NI will in any case be the last devolved administration to agree a draft budget following Chancellor George Osborne's Spending Review last month.


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