Stormont funding: Finance chief to brief MLAs amid funding dispute

  • By Brendan Hughes
  • BBC News NI political reporter

Image caption,

Neil Gibson will appear before the assembly’s finance commitee on Wednesday

The most senior civil servant in Stormont’s Department of Finance is to appear before a Northern Ireland Assembly scrutiny committee.

It comes amid a dispute between the UK government and the Executive over the terms of a £3.3bn financial package for restoring devolution.

The government has asked local ministers to raise a minimum of £113m.

But Stormont parties want more funding and say they did not commit to revenue-raising.

Neil Gibson, permanent secretary of the Department of Finance, is to appear at the assembly’s finance committee on Wednesday.

He is set to brief assembly members alongside other senior officials from the Stormont department.

On Tuesday, the finance minister wrote to the Treasury saying she had “serious concerns” with its letter detailing the £3.3bn financial package.

Caoimhe Archibald said the current offer does not provide a “sustainable solution” to public sector pay demands.

She said the requirement to raise £113m of additional funds within 12 months would “only serve to cause more harm to hard-pressed families, households and businesses”.

‘Built-in commitments’

The minister added it was “not acceptable” to make a £559m debt write-off from previous years conditional on the implementation of a sustainability plan.

It is understood the government wants this plan to be published by May.

Earlier, the government wrote to the Dr Archibald setting out the details of the £3.3bn package, which was agreed in December for a restored power-sharing executive.

The £113m is the figure the government previously estimated could be raised by increasing the regional rate in Northern Ireland by 15%.

Rates are a property tax which help fund public services in Northern Ireland.

Image caption,

Michelle O’Neill said she had not signed up to revenue raising as part of the financial package

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said the funding offer contained “built-in commitments”.

It said these included “publishing and implementing a plan to deliver sustainable finances – including delivery of a balanced budget for 2024-25 by raising a minimum of £113m through locally generated income”.

‘More questions than answers’

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the package tackles Stormont budget pressures and “paves the way for vital transformation of public services”.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said no party had agreed to measures like water charges.

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said it was unsustainable to ask people to pay more for “poor public services”.

Matthew O’Toole, chair of the assembly’s finance committee, said there were “still more questions than answers over what exactly was agreed in the financial package”.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) assembly member, leader of the opposition at Stormont, said: “All this should have been clarified before now.

“This isn’t just a political ‘he said-she said’ – this is about delivering basic public services for the people of Northern Ireland and what they’ll have to pay for them.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button


Get our latest downloads and information first. Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

100% secure your website.