Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Civil Service pay freeze plan

A freeze on Civil Service pay for mid-to high earners and a halt to fresh recruitment are among a series of proposals outlined by the DUP today to help offset the £4 billion cuts earmarked for Northern Ireland.

A dividend levy on the profits of Belfast Port are also included in the measures set out by party leader Peter Robinson this morning.

The economic blueprint would see the current freeze on rate bills lifted, with charges increasing in line with inflation over the next four years.

The plans would result in those civil servants earning more than £21,000 having their pay frozen for the next two years.

New recruitment within the service would be stopped for four years - a move the DUP claims would see 1,000 jobs trimmed per annum through natural wastage.

The party is urging other public services to implement similar cost-saving measures.

Steering clear of any bid to sell off or privatise the Port of Belfast, the economic policy document - Rising To The Challenge - recommends that it give up millions of its profits every year to the Stormont Executive.

Mr Robinson has already proposed that the size of government in Northern Ireland is cut back, with the number of MLAs slashed from 108 to 75 and eight departments doing the job of the current 12.

The First Minister is urging ministerial colleagues to give up 5%-10% of their salaries to set a good example in austere times.

The DUP is not proposing any change to the current Executive policy of deferring the introduction of water charges.

Addressing an audience of business leaders at the La Mon hotel in Belfast, Mr Robinson said his party's proposals could more than bridge the gap left by the spending review cuts.

"I don't believe we should be as gloomy as many people are outside about the future," he said.

"I believe we have the policies that will allow our economy to grow and be stimulated. I believe that we can deal with the cuts in a way that is manageable without causing major pain to our community."

Sinn Fein has also produced a policy document outlining its strategy to deal with the cuts.

While there are some similarities between it and the DUP proposals, there are many issues in which the partners in government take very different approaches.

Despite this, Mr Robinson said he was confident the executive could sit down and hammer out an agreed way forward.

Sinn Fein economy spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin said he looked forward to meeting the DUP.

"As an initial observation on the DUP proposals I would welcome the commitment to continue to oppose water charges, however we would have reservations about the proposal to freeze civil servants' pay for those over £21,000 a year," he said.

"In our view it is those at the very top of the civil service pay scale who need to be made to contribute more, not those on low grades."

Ben Collin, director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Northern Ireland, said: “We welcome the document’s emphasis on the need for cooperation around the Executive table, and on engaging positively with other parties to deliver a budget in the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

"With regard to the measures proposed, we think there is particular merit in switching funds from the resource budget to the capital budget, given the positive economic impact of capital spending and the pressing need to invest in Northern Ireland’s infrastructure for long-term competitiveness.

"However, it is disappointing that there is no commitment to the introduction of domestic water charging. We realise that this is a politically sensitive issue, but continuing to defer domestic water charging will only have a detrimental impact on the ability to spend on crucial things like schools and hospitals. We think that the long-term interests of Northern Ireland will therefore be best served by introducing domestic water charging as soon as possible.”

Belfast Telegraph


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