Belfast Telegraph

Appeal for more Northern Ireland Civil Service powers while Stormont is in limbo

By Michelle Weir

Business groups are today urging Secretary of State Karen Bradley to resolve the "paralysis" in Northern Ireland affairs by giving civil servants more powers in the absence of an Executive.

In an unprecedented call to action, organisations ranging from the CBI to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry - as well as sectoral groups - are appealing to the Secretary of State to "restore stable governance".

They have written to Karen Bradley to ask her for special legislative measures to temporarily empower senior civil servants to take crucial day-to-day decisions while there is still no Executive.

The move comes after a judicial review this month overturned a decision by the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Infrastructure last year to grant planning permission to a controversial waste incinerator by arc21 in Mallusk.

In today's statement, the business groups say they have engaged with Executive departments for more than a year to request policy direction and help them make decisions.

But they say that the judicial review decision to overturn arc21's planning permission has now called into question the ability of civil servants to make decisions.

And in today's Business Telegraph, economist John Simpson writes that the judicial review decision over the incinerator threatens "paralysis" in decision making here.

Adrian Doran, chairman of the CBI NI Infrastructure Forum, said: "The business community's overwhelming priority remains the return of an inclusive devolved government. But without a political resolution in sight, it is only right that we request that the Secretary of State explore all alternative options.

"Policy paralysis is not acceptable, and we must all look for ways to remove the current handbrake on local economic and social progress. Both businesses and individuals deserve to have access to the basic everyday governance that is offered in all other regions.

"The incinerator decision exposed the fragility of current decision making arrangements in the absence of ministers.

"The longer this uncertainty presides over local infrastructure decisions, the greater the risk to jobs and investment. Northern Ireland cannot be left in a decision-making limbo indefinitely."

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added: "Our credibility as a place in which to do business is suffering intolerably because of the political impasse.

"We need the return of a functioning local executive and a ministerial team focused on helping the Northern Ireland economy to flourish."

Belfast Telegraph

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