Westminster to provide extra £1 billion to Stormont
The Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1 billion from Westminster on top of the agreed financial package as a default result of spending plans spanning the whole of the UK.
Downing Street said that there will be a “rapid injection of £550 million to put the executive’s finances on a sustainable footing”, including £200 million to go towards ending public sector strikes by resolving the ongoing row over nurses’ wages.
The financial package will contain “stringent conditions” outlined in the Stormont deal, concerning “accountability for public spending” and the development of “sustainable public services”.
A new joint board will be established between central government and Stormont to oversee how the funds are used.
Reaction from within Stormont has been negative, however, with Sinn Fein MLA and finance minister Conor Murphy labelling it “an act of bad faith” and criticising the package for falling short on its ambitions.
Murphy said: "The bottom line is with this proposed package, our public services face a shortfall of at least £1 billion next year alone.”
First minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill have written to prime minister Boris Johnson to say that the financial proposals are inadequate.
SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, also weighed in on the issue, saying: "The gulf between the ambition of the deal and the money on the table is substantial and will cause serious public finance difficulties for the executive.
"This is not, and cannot be, the end of the matter.”
Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith’s response was to call upon Stormont’s politicians to “get on with” the task at hand.
He tweeted: "Let's remember MLAs have been off work three years at a cost of [more than] £15m in salaries.
"There will be a new deal for NI as it leaves the EU. There is also a UK budget in spring. £2 billion is biggest ever NI talks settlement and it addresses a number of key issues.”