Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

'Special treatment' case over cuts

Northern Ireland 'can argue for special treatment' over proposed budget cuts, says Peter Robinson

Northern Ireland can argue for special treatment in the face of the threatened £2 billion Treasury cuts, First Minister Peter Robinson has said.

His comments came despite claims by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson that London would be unimpressed by such pleas.

Mr Robinson appeared to back his party colleague on a related issue, however, when he told an Assembly committee that all ministers must nevertheless play their part in preparing for tough times ahead.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were giving evidence to the Assembly committee that scrutinises their office.

Both men said they would be meeting Chancellor George Osborne within days, while they may yet meet Prime Minister David Cameron, to ensure unfair cuts are not made to the Assembly's budget.

"We have special circumstances and special needs," said Mr Robinson, who cited the financial burden of dealing with the threat posed by dissident republicans.

The DUP leader said politicians could not escape the calculations made under the Barnett formula, through which Government funds are allocated to the Assembly.

But he said Northern Ireland could argue for Government to consider a number of areas where special circumstances apply, including: the levels of poverty and deprivation in Northern Ireland, the need to grow its relatively small private sector, and the need to protect police and court service budgets in the face of the dissident republican threat.

On Tuesday, Mr Wilson predicted the Executive will face a £2 billion cut over four years when Mr Osborne reveals his much-anticipated spending review on October 20.

He added: "There's no sympathy (within the Treasury) for Northern Ireland saying we're such a basket case or we're in such difficult circumstances that we must be exempted from this."

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