Civil servants to control Northern Ireland spending from tomorrow

Northern Ireland secretary says there is “no appetite” for direct rule from Whitehall

By Richard Johnstone

27 Mar 2017

Civil servants in Northern Ireland will take control of spending on public services from Wednesday following the collapse of talks to create a new power-sharing executive between the province’s political parties.

In a statement to MPs yesterday evening, following the passing of the deadline to form a new administration after the 2 March elections, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire said civil servants would now control spending to maintain services.

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He said there would now be “a short window of opportunity to resolve outstanding issues and for an executive to be formed”, and there was “no appetite for any alternative” – such as direct rule from Whitehall – among Northern Ireland’s parties.

More details of the Westminster government’s next steps would be set out shortly, he said, adding: “We are rapidly approaching the point at which Northern Ireland will not have an agreed budget.

“This is not sustainable and will have consequences for public services.”

As a result, spending control would be given to the civil service from Wednesday.

Brokenshire highlighted that since the election, which was called after Sinn Féin left the governing executive following an overspend of a controversial Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, the UK government had been involved in intensive talks to reach a power-sharing deal.

Progress has been made on a number of issues, he told MPs, including developing a budget, a programme for government and schemes to improve governance, transparency and accountability.

“Yet it is also clear that there remain significant gaps between the parties, particularly over issues surrounding culture and identity,” he said.

“Throughout this process the UK government has been active in making positive proposals to try and bridge these gaps and help the parties to move things forward. Despite these efforts, agreement at this stage has not proved possible.”

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