Belfast Telegraph

'Our children will be the losers,' - Civil service chief warns of impact to schools, hospitals and homes of ongoing Northern Ireland political deadlock

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling (Niall Carson/PA)
The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling (Niall Carson/PA)

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has warned that urgent reforms in health, education and social housing are behind held up in the absence of the Stormont Executive.

The power-sharing Executive collapsed nearly two years ago following the resignation of then deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in January 2017.

The Belfast Telegraph recently revealed the 164 key decisions have been left in limbo since the collapse of Stormont.

David Sterling, Northern Ireland's most senior civil servant, in a speech this week said there is a real risk that the Housing Executive will have to start "mothballing" some properties and that the social housing situation will continue to deteriorate without ministers in place.

He said a large backlog of planning housing maintenance has built up over the past 10 years and warned it cannot be addressed "solely or even mainly by additional public expenditure" but need "fundamental restructuring".

Mr Sterling said plans had been drawn up to address the issues in social housing but that they could not move forward with the proposals without the sign off of a minister.

Mr Sterling made a similar point about education, where officials have drawn up plans to tackle the funding crisis in Northern Ireland schools.

"And that in turn needs an education minister, an executive and an assembly providing strong direction and leadership," he added.

"Without this, the necessary transformation will not happen and it will be our children who will be the losers."

Mr Sterling also said a health transformation plan approved by the Stormont parties in 2016 was being implemented by civil servants but that there was limits to what could be achieved without ministers in place.

He said: "With no assembly or executive in place to support this agreement, there remains a significant gap between what is needed and the resources available."

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