Belfast Telegraph

Civil Service to put Treasury on notice as Northern Ireland heads into red

By Claire Williamson

Northern Ireland's Civil Service head is to warn the Treasury that the Executive's finances could go into the red.

It was reported that, within days, Dr Malcolm McKibbin will tell Treasury officials of his concerns that Stormont is about to exceed its spending limits.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed last week that the Executive had been warned it must find £200m in funding cuts or it will bust its spending limits and face Treasury intervention.

The stark warning to cut services was outlined to ministers during a secret briefing the previous week. This newspaper indicated that if the savings are not made by the end of this month, then the Treasury in London will intervene to run our economy along with civil servants.

The move could mean a redundancy scheme for civil servants.

The news comes as Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called for Westminster to freeze £87m in fines.

The Sinn Fein MLA said lifting the financial "threat" would enable renewed negotiations to take place in a more positive context. He said this would allow parties to enter talks over the current deadlock.

First Minister Peter Robinson dismissed the demand, insisting the money had already been withheld by the Treasury.

Northern Ireland faces penalties for not endorsing welfare reforms passed by Westminster.

First Minister Peter Robinson accused Sinn Fein of failing to face reality over welfare reform.

He said: "This is a crisis situation caused by crankery within Sinn Fein.

"It is totally irresponsible. As a responsible Government, we have to take the hard decisions. We are not there to be applauded from the sidelines because we just take the nice decisions."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said the £87m was not a fine. He said: "It is up to NI to either maintain parity with Great Britain in respect of welfare payments, or for the Executive to pay extra for them."

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