Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Stormont urged to end 'subsidies'


The Executive should reconsider freezing rates or offering free prescriptions, a draft report from a local economic think-tank has said.

The Economic Research Institute of NI says that "indiscriminate subsidies" should be phased out and replaced by more targeted and effective measures.

The advice is contained in a report called "Mitigating the recession".

Other Stormont policies it questions include the deferral of water charges, and free travel for the elderly.

Given the serious nature of the economic downturn and the pressures on the local budget, the report argues consideration should be given to other radical measures including suspending bonuses and deferring pay increases in the public sector, raising the fee for MOTs to 100 and imposing a levy on car parking spaces for public sector workers.

The report's author Victor Hewitt gave evidence to the Stormont Regional Development and Finance Committees on Wednesday.

While some MLAs expressed interest in the report's conclusions, DUP assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr distanced his party from those suggestions which he argued would hurt the citizens the Executive is trying to serve.

"The fact is, the steady course that the Executive has plotted must be seen through to the ultimate conclusion," Mr Paisley said.

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