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Northern Ireland Civil Service jobs cull cash will pay for new buses

By Noel McAdam

Published 26/10/2016

Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir
Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir

Stormont ministers are to use money that was borrowed to axe Civil Service jobs to spark a new 'economic stimulus' - including orders for 45 new buses.

The multi-million pound Treasury loan financed a cull of 4,000 civil servants at a total cost of £197m - but produced annual salary bill savings of £115m.

A total of £10m for new buses - with most orders going to the Wrightbus company in Ballymena - comes alongside a £15m injection to help maintain the province's crumbling roads network. There was also £4.8m for muscular dystrophy treatments, £2.5m for the City of Derry Airport and £1m for Irish medium education.

A new stimulus drive is the main initiative from the latest Executive spending round - the first since the DUP and Sinn Fein took over all ministerial posts except Justice, after the UUP, SDLP and Alliance quit the Executive.

Their departures have led to much smoother procedures in relation to the quarterly redistribution of unspent departmental cash - though increasingly tight budgets meant the Executive had less money to share out than in most previous spending rounds.

Challenged by the SDLP's Nichola Mallon on the new spending round system, Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir said ministers used to bring forward bids for projects "as long as your arm and usually chancing their arm".

"This system delivers for people," the minister added.

Asked by Sinn Fein colleague John O'Dowd why there had been no cuts, he cited a "more united Executive".

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