Belfast Telegraph

Government 'will not negotiate'

The Westminster government has said it will not negotiate on the Spending Review deal handed to the Stormont Assembly.

Finance minister Sammy Wilson estimated the cuts ordered by Chancellor George Osborne would take £4 billion from the Assembly purse over the next four years.

While First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have said London is not living up to financial obligations, Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said there would be no negotiating.

He called on the Assembly Executive, currently discussing its budget plans, to produce a blueprint "as a matter of urgency".

"A settlement is precisely that - a settlement. It is not the opening round of a negotiation," he said.

Mr Paterson said Stormont had got a fair deal, which compared well with the rest of the UK and included an offer to resolve the crisis faced by savers with the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS).

"George Osborne announced the spending review settlement over a month ago on October 20," he said. "I repeat the Coalition Government's view that it was a fair settlement.

"And we gave the Executive precisely what they asked to achieve a fair and just resolution of the crisis in the PMS. But a settlement is precisely that - a settlement. It is not the opening round of a negotiation.

"Northern Ireland is now the only part of the United Kingdom that hasn't set a budget following the spending review settlement. That cannot go on. People need clarity and certainty.

"So I very much hope that the Executive now proceeds rapidly to provide clarity and certainty by setting a budget as a matter of urgency."

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