842 apply to leave Civil Service, but impasse could scupper exit
More than 800 civil servants approved for a redundancy scheme are being "let down" by the current deadlock at Stormont, which may prevent them leaving their jobs.
That was the view of DUP MLA Peter Weir, who was speaking out after his party colleague and Finance Minister Arlene Foster revealed that so far 842 staff had agreed to the severance deal.
Another 161 rejected the offer.
Since March, more than 7,000 workers have applied for the voluntary exit scheme set up following the Stormont House Agreement. The package included a month's pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 21 months. The deadline for civil servants to accept an offer was 5pm yesterday.
The measure was to be funded through £700m of borrowing from Westminster.
However, the scheme and other measures - such as corporation tax - brokered in the Stormont House Agreement have been thrown into jeopardy because of no deal has been struck around the Executive table over welfare reform.
Mr Weir said Government should be able to honour the commitment to those who sought the exit package.
He said: "The redundancy scheme, the Stormont House Agreement and welfare reform are all inextricably linked.
"This will have massive implications on all areas of public service.
"Not only are there 842 civil servants looking to leave, but there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of others in other areas of public service wanting to leave who won't be allowed to because of the hold-ups Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Greens have created.
"There will be those looking to leave - for example, in education - and because they can't, it will leave a hole in budgets which will impact on teaching children. That's just one example - this could be the tip of the iceberg."
He added: "It's clear, Government should be in a position to honour its commitments.
"There are civil servants who want to leave, who will no doubt want to pursue other work, take early retirement or whatever life choice this redundancy will give them. And they are being let down by those who oppose welfare reform and are blocking Stormont House."
Sinn Fein, however, has put the blame squarely on Westminster's shoulders and said there was no reason the redundancy scheme should not go ahead.
MLA Conor Murphy said: "Sinn Fein has consistently said that the Stormont House Agreement should be implemented in full.
"The British Government committed to provide the funds for the voluntary exit scheme and it is the British government which is stalling this scheme. We see no reason why a voluntary exit scheme which does not undermine the delivery of core public services should not go ahead."