Belfast Telegraph

Services for vulnerable people 'should galvanise' efforts to repair powersharing

The instability facing organisations providing services to children and other vulnerable groups should galvanise efforts to restore powersharing, the Northern Ireland Secretary said.

A Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) survey revealed 88% of participating organisations receiving public money had received or were at risk of funding cuts.

James Brokenshire said lack of political decision-making had added to the feeling of uncertainty for groups delivering public services for vulnerable groups and children.

He said: "It is that focus and intent and the real-life issues that are now being shown from the lack of an Executive being put in place that should galvanise all of us to redouble our efforts to look at a renewed process to see that we do get that Executive back into place quickly."

Almost one in 10 publicly funded organisations reported that cuts for the next financial year had already been confirmed, while 52% estimated that between one and five jobs were at risk.

Almost a third of the groups had already put staff on notice due to confirmed or potential statutory funding cuts.

Mr Brokenshire said if a political deal was not reached after Easter he would need to start legislating to deal with some of the issues, to allow local councils to issue rates bills and provide assurances over the budget.

"My optimum desire, my intent, is to be able to legislate to put an Executive back into place, that is still there to be delivered and can be delivered but it is about dealing with these outstanding issues."

Independent Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon has suggested American diplomat Barbara Stephenson might be nominated as overseer at the discussions.

Mr Brokenshire said his priority was getting the parties back around the negotiating table.

"It is about that focus rather than expanding the process out," he said.

"This is about narrowing things down, getting the agreements that are needed on those outstanding issues.

"I think that can be done."

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