Belfast Telegraph

Stormont stalemate remains despite the Robinson warnings and the cajolery

By Noel McAdam

The two-year stalemate over welfare reform between Sinn Fein and the DUP trundles on relentlessly with no end in sight.

This week the Executive was told it faces a potential £100m penalty in the next financial year for its failure to implement even the early stages of the changes.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton received a letter from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander setting out the consequences of continued failure over the reforms, to which Sinn Fein and the SDLP are opposed.

It followed Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning's trip to Belfast last November to warn the stand-off would cost Executive coffers £5m a month from January, rising to an annual £250m.

Several meetings of an Executive sub-committee set up to try to chart a way forward were fruitless.

Its chairman Nelson McCausland said recently that the threatened cuts would hit our schools and hospitals.

Nationalists argue that the Stormont parties should stand together. They want a united front to demand that Westminster go beyond paying lip service in its recognition that our needs and the legacy of deprivation from the Troubles are reality. But the DUP insists there is no realistic prospect of new negotiations with the Government.

There is no doubt the shake-up in the welfare state will impact Northern Ireland badly.

Apart from London, people here are expected to be hit hardest due to the high proportion on Disability Living Allowance and the high proportion of households with children.

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