Wilson clashes with Tories over spending

INCOMING Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has clashed with the Conservatives over spending plans.

The East Antrim MP alleged that if the Tories form the next Government their spending plans would see public sector budgets in the Province drastically reduced and called on the UUP to distance themselves from their political partners over the issue.

But the Conservatives said that they were "incredibly worried that our new Finance Minister seems completely out of his depth" pointing out that Westminster does not decide on devolved spending.

And the Ulster Unionists said that the DUP was "still trying to scare voters" as it did by "trying to scare people into voting" for it to stop Sinn Fein topping the Euro poll.

Mr Wilson said that the Conservatives' intent was to reduce the overall UK budget by 10 percent, while ring-fencing spending on health and education expenditure.

The outgoing Environment Minister claimed that the party had a "slash and burn" approach to public spending: "This has grave implications for Northern Ireland.

"Health and education between them account for 75 per cent of the total Northern Ireland budget.

"To maintain existing levels in those departments and reduce the total budget to the levels the Tories are talking about means cutting by around 40 or 50 per cent the budget allocation of the other nine departments."

And he accused the UUP of remaining silent on the issue, calling on leader Sir Reg Empey to distance himself from any public sector budget cuts.

"Will the UUP distance themselves from these plans to gut public services in Northern Ireland or will Reg continue to do his master's bidding?"

Responding to Mr Wilson's attack, a Conservative Party spokesman said that Westminster would have "absolutely no control" over spending on health and education in Northern Ireland, something which is the responsibility of Stormont.

"That Mr Wilson doesn't seem to understand this, considering his now elevated position in controlling the local purse strings, should fill us all with concern," he said.

"The DUP seem to want to abdicate all responsibility when it comes to making tough decisions. In order to put the UK back on a sound financial footing all three main national parties are agreed that budgets are going to come under financial strain over the coming years."

UUP Assemblyman John McAllister said that "even an A Level student would realise the havoc that the present Labour Government has done to the economy and to the personal savings of millions of ordinary people.

"But even though we are in this mess it seems clear that A Level Sammy would rather blame a future Conservative Government for something it hasn't done than lay the blame precisely where it belongs – with Gordon Brown."