Belfast Telegraph

Cuts impasse 'costs £1m a day'

The impasse over public spending cuts at Northern Ireland's Executive is costing £1 million a day, it was claimed.

Millions have to be shaved off departmental budgets next month to compensate for the shortfall, partly as a result of Treasury fines imposed because of failure to introduce benefits changes from Westminster.

It comes as DUP leader Peter Robinson hit back at internal critics as "people with the strategic vision of a lemming".

A general discussion of the budget was held during an Executive meeting at Stormont Castle today but no formal talks took place. A circulated paper on the issue did not appear on the agenda.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said: "It is a complete betrayal of the responsibilities that people were given."

His party's call for intensive talks to try to reach a resolution was rejected, he said, and civil servants were concerned that budget rules could be broken.

"There is absolutely no doubt that civil servants with responsibilities as accounting officers across all departments will be starting to face a very difficult position as they look to what they know will be unsustainable budgets if action is not taken."

Party colleague and Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry addressed the spending pressures.

"That pressure amounts to in effect £1 million a day so every day we delay in terms of the Executive having a clear plan to deal with the in-year pressures is in effect costing the people of Northern Ireland a million pounds per day."

Ulster Unionist regional development minister Danny Kennedy said there was a general discussion of the budget during the Executive meeting, not a formal one.

He said: "It is important that we get around the table urgently and look at all of the issues and do what is right for the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Robinson used Twitter to announce his ministerial reshuffle earlier this week, during which health minister Edwin Poots and social development minister Nelson McCausland were replaced, and senior party colleagues have used social media to pledge their support.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "Let us be clear, Peter Robinson is the leader of the DUP and will continue to be the leader of the DUP through the coming elections.

"He has proven over recent years that he has got the strategic vision to guide Northern Ireland and the Executive through the difficulties which we still have to deal with."


From Belfast Telegraph