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Llamas breaks ranks on GSD budget vote

Opposition MP Lawrence Llamas said he will break ranks with GSD colleagues and vote in favour of the Gibraltar Government’s budget, despite sharing the party’s deep concerns about transparency in public spending.
GSD leader Daniel Feetham announced on Monday that his party would vote against the Appropriation Bill because the government’s approach to public finance - with much spending channelled off balance sheet through government-owned companies - had turned the budget into “a dangerous farce”.
But Mr Llamas claimed he had been aware of the move until he heard Mr Feetham in Parliament on Monday.
“On this, the second occasion on which I have had the privilege to participate in the budget debate, I am called upon by the leadership of my party to vote against the Bill as a symbolic protest at the lack of transparency on public finances,” he said in a statement issued last night.
“I agree with my party’s position regarding transparency but not with the stated voting intention.”
“Ever since the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition on Monday of the official opposition’s intention to vote against the Bill I have grappled with what the right thing to do is as it was not a decision taken collectively.” 
“I was regrettably not consulted and first learnt of what my party intended to do at the same time as the wider public. “
“Had we, as a parliamentary party, discussed and voted on the issue, I may have considered myself bound by collective responsibility but not in circumstances such as these.”
Mr Llamas said he took his responsibilities to Parliament and the electorate “very seriously indeed”.
He told the Chronicle that his decision was not indicative of a deeper rift between him and the GSD, but rather specifically related to the party's position on the budget, and the way that stance had been announced.
He said Parliament was voting on the budget measures tabled in the House, not on the money that was being spent by the government and not reflected on its balance books.
"That off-balance sheet spending will be a black mark on their record," he said.
"But we're approving the expenditure that is before us, not what they are spending elsewhere."
The Opposition had a duty to express its concerns about transparency, "...but we still need to engage positively in debating and approving the estimates that are before us."
The GSD MP repeated time and again that he continued to have deep misgivings about the Gibraltar Government's spending.
He said the budget session had been "a week of unanswered questions" and said it was "regrettable" that Chief Minister Fabian Picardo relied repeatedly on the behaviour of [ast administrations to justify his position on debt.
“It is regrettable too that he chooses to rely on an argument  to make repeated boasts of prudence when all the evidence of the last six years supports a contrary view," Mr Llamas said.
"It is also far from ideal that he should seek to obfuscate and confuse the electorate by holding true to his chosen line.”
“Despite all this, I cannot, in all consciousness, bring myself to vote against the Appropriation Bill.  I do not make this decision lightly.”
Mr Llamas noted that regardless of whether he voted against the Appropriation Bill or not, it would still pass on a Gibraltar Government majority. 
But he added: “That does not mean, however, that I can absolve myself of responsibility for my actions or what I feel, in all conscience, is the right thing to do.”

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