'Difficult times ahead for public spending', warns Alliance after Budget unveiled

Difficult times lie ahead in terms of public spending in Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party has warned.

Meanwhile the Ulster Unionist Party says the region is now "facing a deeply challenging period financially".

The SDLP described budget cuts as "a consequence of political failure".

The Stormont parties were giving their reactions after the secretary of state moved to set a budget for the region on Thursday.

Chris Heaton-Harris made the move in the absence of an Executive.

Sinn Féin's former finance minister Conor Murphy said: "That's pure Tory policy - they make a mess of the economy for 12 years and rely on ordinary people to fill that gap.

"We are exposed to the full extent of that because the DUP prevent us from having an Executive."

Meanwhile the DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said: “I think there’s serious questions for the former finance minister to answer in relation to the budget.

Analysis by UTV's Political Editor Tracey Magee.

“He started a budgetary process last October, there was buy-in from no other political party in terms of the proposals he was bringing forward in draft budgets."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the NI secretary's statement provides a "basis for the continuity of public services".

But he said, with Stormont collapsed, there is "little scope for strategic decisions to be taken to reform public services to make them more sustainable".

Mr Farry added: "Some very difficult times are ahead in terms of public spending here."

The UUP's finance spokesperson Steve Aiken said the statement is "a clear example of why we need to see the Executive back up and running".

He added: "The challenges caused by soaring energy costs and inflation are affecting every home in Northern Ireland.

"Local ministers being able to provide a multi-year budget will be vital in producing solutions that work for people in Northern Ireland."

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood hit out at a "Tory budget that will lead to stark cuts to education and other areas of public spending".

He added: "Further pain is not inevitable, power that should never have been given to him can be removed from the secretary of state.

"People across Northern Ireland can no longer afford to pay the price for this political selfishness."

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