Job losses 'inevitable amid cuts'
Public sector job losses are inevitable in Northern Ireland, the Finance Minister has admitted as he confirmed the Executive is facing a £2 billion spending cut from Westminster.
Outlining a breakdown of the anticipated blow to the local coffers for the first time, Sammy Wilson warned ministerial colleagues to stop playing politics over the budget and get down to the business of prioritising their needs.
While funding allocated to Stormont from the Treasury is set to be slashed by around £2 billion, the region will undoubtedly lose out on even more if the coalition Government pushes ahead with its plans to reduce the UK's overall social security bill.
Confirmation of the cuts will not come until Chancellor George Osborne reveals his much-anticipated spending review on October 20, but Mr Wilson said he and his officials had been given indications that their own estimates were close.
Mr Wilson said: "We are not being told that they think those figures are wrong. And in the case of Scotland, our figures are not a million miles away from theirs so I think we've got the maxim right."
While the minister declined to quantify the potential job loses the cuts could prompt, he conceded some redundancies were unavoidable.
"Even with natural wastage and people moving out of the public sector into other jobs, retirement etc we do not believe we can get through this simply by moving people into other jobs that become vacant," he said.
Of the £2 billion the Executive is set to lose out on over the four years covered by the spending review, £1.5 billion is from the so-called annual "current" operating budget and half a billion from the "capital" pot that funds infrastructure developments such as new roads and schools.
Using the Barnett allocation formula, at present the Northern Ireland Executive gets £9.2 billion in current budget and £1.7 billion in capital per year. So the estimated cuts equate to a 10.7% drop in the current budget over the next four years and a 31.8% slice off its capital spend.
General secretary of public sector trade union Nipsa Brian Campfield said: "The scale of these cuts will wreck the Northern Ireland economy and deprive local communities of important public services, leading to tens of thousands of redundancies in the public and the private sectors. The cuts represent economic vandalism and ignore the fact that it was banks and other financial institutions which precipitated the crisis yet it is low and middle income earners, women and young people who will bear the brunt of the cuts."