Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

First Ministers to hold crunch talks with Cameron over Northern Ireland cuts

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will be holding “crucial” discussions with David Cameron as fears mount over Government spending cuts in Northern Ireland.

The First and Deputy First Minister are also planning to meet Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Secretary of State Owen Paterson, MLAs have been told.

Mr Osborne will be making a spending review statement on October 20, which will reveal the extent of cuts in the Assembly's block grant.

Fears have been voiced that up to £2bn could be slashed from budgets here over a four-year period.

Sinn Fein last week vowed |opposition to “British Tory cuts”, with senior MLA Mitchel McLaughlin saying the Executive “shouldn't be simply rolling over”.

He also criticised Mr Robinson for “inviting ministers to anticipate the cuts before we even get the budget statement on 20 October”.

But yesterday Mr McGuinness presented a united front between himself and the First Minister.

He told MLAs their meeting with the Secretary of State would take place this week, with further discussions with Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne coming before October 20.

“We all face a serious fiscal |situation, and many threatening noises have come from the coalition Government in London,” he added.

“The best approach is the one on which the First Minister and I agreed, which is to place the |development of the economy at the front and centre of the |Programme for Government.

“We must continue to do that and, as best we can, to protect frontline services and the interests of those who are most disadvantaged within society.”

The Deputy First Minister continued: “There has been a lot of hot air in the media over the course of the last short while.

“At the end of the day, however, the knuckling down has to be done, and we are prepared to do that.

“We are prepared to speak to the powers that be in London and put what we think is a very strong case on behalf of the Executive and Assembly.”

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