UK government threatening Northern Ireland on welfare, claims Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein has accused the UK government of threatening Northern Ireland for its reluctance to implement its welfare reforms.

Sinn Fein has accused the UK government of threatening Northern Ireland for its reluctance to implement its welfare reforms.

In order to implement the ConDem coalition’s reforms, including the introduction of the increasingly shaky Universal Credit, the Northern Ireland Assembly has to pass legislation which is still being considered by Assembly Members.

This has led the UK government to warn of serious financial implications if the reforms aren’t implemented soon.

Ahead of a meeting with Northern Ireland’s social development minister Nelson McCausland in Belfast today, the UK government work and pensions minister Mike Penning has said he is looking for a way “to avoid substantial reductions in funding and to ensure there’s a system in place that is right for claimants and fair to taxpayers both in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK”.

“While this is ultimately a devolved matter, I’m concerned about the lack of progress that has been made which has already cost over £30m in lost savings and this figure is increasing by around £5m every month.

“If this continues we are potentially talking about tens of millions of pounds more that will need to be found elsewhere by the Northern Ireland Executive,” he said.

The treasury has already concluded that unless the reforms are introduced in Northern Ireland, the block grant will have to be reduced in order to compensate for lost savings.

The comments and threats, however, have been met with anger by Sinn Fein, with Alex Maskey, a member of the Assembly’s social development committee, explaining:

“We’re being threatened basically by the British government to penalise us further for trying to make sure that we represent the interests of the people here, that we represent, that no Tory represents.”

In October, research reported by Left Foot Forward suggested that Northern Ireland would be the hardest hit region as a result of the welfare reforms.

Committing himself to seeing the reforms through, however, the DUP Minister Nelson McCausland has concluded:

“I am committed to taking the Welfare Reform Bill through the assembly as soon as the parties in the executive can agree to move forward to consideration stage.

“I have developed a package of measures which I believe shapes welfare reform to meet the needs of the people of Northern Ireland.

“I would hope to be able to bring this package, to the executive in the very near future.”

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