The welfare reform sums that don't add up - has Sinn Fein got its facts wrong? Part 1

Oct 13, 2014, 08:55 AM

Last week on this show, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey spoke about the impact of the planned Welfare Reform Bill at Stormont, the one his party is blocking. And he used figures that have now been totally contradicted by Government. That's what we're talking about today. Has Sinn Fein got its facts totally wrong? Here's the background - and bear with us here through the figures. Trust me, this is important stuff. Some Sinn Fein politicians have been talking about £750m a year in benefit cuts coming in. The £750m estimate came from a university study. But it actually included over £500m of changes that have already happened, that have nothing to do with the current welfare bill stuck at Stormont. So it was totally inaccurate for Sinn Fein to use the £750m figure when talking about "Saying No to Tory Cuts" and fighting welfare reform. It's too late to say no to a lot of it - it's already here. So we had Alex Maskey on the show last week, to challenge him on the party's use of this £750m figure. Here's the problem Alex Maskey - the Department is saying something very different. We've received a statement from the Department for Social Development. It says a figure of £450m was given to MLAs in 2011. But it says this early estimate referred to a combination of welfare changes, not just those in the current welfare reform bill at Stormont. It was also over a number of years, not one. So it wasn't £450m a year from the current welfare reform bill. The Department also says more recent official estimates on the current welfare reform bill have involved reductions of between £200m-£250m over a three year period. A THREE YEAR PERIOD. That's about what £70m-£80m a year? It's a long long way from your £450m a year, Alex Maskey? It means you're a billion pounds out over a three year period. So where does that leave Sinn Fein and its stance on the current Stormont bill? The £750m cuts total. Wrong. Alex Maskey's £450m cuts total. Wrong again. And the claim the £450m total for the bill was given by Government. Wrong again.