The DUP’s main unionist rivals have savaged Arlene Foster’s address to the Assembly about the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, pointing out that there is still no plan to deal with the financial fall-out.
It had been anticipated that in her address on Monday, the First Minister would offer some ideas for how the Province will be able to cope with what could be a £400m bill for the botched scheme over a 20-year period.
According to a detailed BBC analysis of the figures, at the outset the full cost of the scheme was all expected to be met by Westminster – but since it has now soared above £1bn in cost, it is possible that £400-or-so of that will now have to come from Northern Ireland’s own budget.
However, instead of presenting explicit possible solutions, Mrs Foster told the Assembly chamber (which had by that stage been deserted by all except her fellow DUP members) that a plan will be unveiled at some unspecified time next year.
In a statement, Ulster Unionist economy spokesperson Steve Aiken MLA dubbed this “pathetic”.
He said: “Mrs Foster’s appearance at the Assembly to make a statement on the Renewable Heating Incentive was trailed last week as the opportunity when the First Minister would set out a plan to recoup a significant part of the public funds which have been committed to the non-domestic RHI scheme over the next twenty years.
“No such plan was forthcoming today...
“The most pressing question remains unanswered and unaddressed in her statement: How is the First Minister going to mitigate the losses in the public finances incurred by the RHI?
“As a responsible Opposition, we have already proposed the idea of a windfall tax on excessive and unjustifiable profits from the scheme.
“The First Minister said last week that she would recoup around half of the projected costs.
“Today was going to be the day when she set out the Arlene plan.
“However, no plan has been set out today. Simon Hamilton is going to come back with his plan in the New Year, apparently.”