Ministers deny Premier hid behind them over budget cuts
Ministers denied the Premier and finance minister was hiding behind them with an insistence they announced budget cuts instead of doing it himself.
David Burt, who took the finance minister’s portfolio after the shock resignation of Curtis Dickinson just days before the financial blueprint was unveiled, has refused to say where the axe would fall.
It has been left to ministers to spell out where cuts would hit as Mr Burt did not go into detail in the Budget statement.
He also refused to say which areas would get reduced funding when questioned by The Royal Gazette.
Ernest Peets, the Minister for Youth, Culture and Sports, yesterday announced a budget of $12.8 million, a cut of $75,000.
But he said: “There is no one here taking any flak for any cuts. Cuts, or course, are part of the whole process going forward.”
Dr Peets denied Mr Burt had hidden behind his ministers.
He said: “Oh, he never does.”
Tinée Furbert, the social development and seniors minister, who admitted the minimal rise in her department’s budget to $24.5 million would be a decrease because of inflation, also defended Mr Burt.
She said: “We are all responsible for knowing and maintaining our budgets for ministries, so, no, I do not think he is hiding behind that information.”
Dr Peets added the cuts to his department’s Budget would be absorbed through a reduction in full-time salaries.
He said: “We have to be focused and flexible where we can allocate funds and how we can allocate funds.
“So, going forward, I can assure you that despite the slight decrease between this current Budget and the original Budget, last year, full services will still be provided for.
“We will find a way of trimming the fat.
“What we are going to have to do is take some of the lessons that we have learnt from the pandemic and focus on where our core services are and be as flexible as possible.”
Dr Peets added: “We have spent considerable time ensuring that our core programming, core service particularly, for culture and for sport, are being funded in a way in keeping with our Throne’s Speech initiatives.”
Ms Furbert said there had been an increase in cases of child neglect reported to the authorities.
She added: “We will not be cutting back on areas. We have done a reallocation on our Budget to be able to provide … for public agencies.
“What we are seeing is an increase in reporting of child neglect.
“Our child abuse statistics are maintained to the same level.”
Mr Burt said in the Budget statement: “The $945 million of current expenditure for the next fiscal year 2022-23 will still require a significant amount of reductions in services to meet that target.
“The reductions can be seen across the board where grants have been reduced in certain areas, services will have to be limited and hiring will be frozen.”
The Premier said he would leave the nuts and bolts of individual budgets to ministers as he did not want to “steal their thunder”.
Ms Furbert, who attended the Progressive Labour Party’s Founder’s Day event on February 27, revealed she had not been made aware that the Premier had tested positive for the coronavirus that night until the next day.
She declined to elaborate when asked if she would have preferred to have been informed earlier.
Ms Furbert said: “I can’t speak to that, I don’t know what the reporting structure was. I think these things were handled according to how they should have been handled.”