Belfast Telegraph

Stormont welfare stalemate means £18m more cuts: Ford

By Noel McAdam

Failure to resolve the welfare reform impasse at Stormont before the general election will mean further spending cuts of £18m, it has been warned.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said it was money which could be used to help protect the same vulnerable people Sinn Fein and the SDLP say are at risk from the massive benefits changes.

The Justice Minister was using figures from First Minister Peter Robinson, who warned earlier this week that the new stalemate will cost Stormont coffers £2m a week.

"Putting a deal off until after the election will see £18m of vital public spending lost in fines to Westminster," he said.

"We will be paying £2m a week in fines to Westminster until welfare is agreed."

Mr Robinson told the Assembly on Monday that a failure to agree welfare reform will result in a further Treasury penalty of £114m, "which would have a dramatic impact on our budget".

Mr Ford added yesterday: "The decision by the SDLP to withhold their support for welfare legislation, and Sinn Fein's U-turn two weeks ago, has once again created doubt over Northern Ireland's political and economic future.

"If we don't resolve this issue before the election, then we will waste a further £18m in fines that we will be forced to pay to Westminster. This figure will continue to rise for every week that a deal isn't done."

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