Kelly: Robinson ignores cost of policing Twaddell as he threatens to take nuclear option on Welfare Reform
The SDLP spokesperson on Social Development, and member of the Policing Board said:
“The fact Peter Robinson would threaten us with a ‘nuclear option’ regarding welfare reform is bad enough, but the fact he insists it is the most vulnerable who will suffer with massive budget cuts is unacceptable.
“The First Minister warns failure to introduce welfare reform here, with the devastating impact it would have on Northern Irish families, would lead to as much as £1billion being taken out of the block grant over the next five years.
“This week, in an interview the Finance Minister, the DUP’s Simon Hamilton warned that already £15m had been racked up in penalties in the last financial year for not imposing welfare reform, and this figure would rise to £100m this year.
“The Finance Minister threatened to remove £68m from the health budget, which he admitted would have ‘a devastating impact’, and £30m from the Justice budget. It is clear to me both the Finance Minister and the First Minister are creating a climate of fear and distress for the most vulnerable in our society without taking a responsible approach of seeing where some very practical savings could be made.
“For example, the cost of policing the long-standing protest at Twaddell in North Belfast is approaching £7m so far, with a continuing daily cost of over £40,000. Where is the DUP concern about this cost? Surely, such a practical cost saving could be made if the political will and leadership existed within the DUP to help resolve this long-standing protest.
“The DUP have only focused on the cost consequences to the NI Budget if Welfare Reform is not achieved in the image of what London is imposing. They have said very little about the damage that will be caused to families, communities and individuals because of what London will impose.
“I do not believe there has been much recent negotiation by the DUP with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Since before the summer, DWP has given not an inch to DSD in regarding amendments to Welfare Reform.
“The DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton and the First Minister have questions to answer about the role that he can play in respect of welfare reform and stop being messengers for Treasury when it comes to the threat of welfare reform.”