Northern Ireland entering the red

The Northern Ireland Executive is on course to enter the red, according to BBC reports.

The Northern Ireland Executive is on course to enter the red, according to BBC reports.

Ministers at Stormont are having to plug a £200 million black hole in this financial year, consisting of £90m in fines, imposed by the treasury due to the executive’s failure to implement welfare reforms and more than £100m in other reductions.

According to the reports, Dr Malcolm McKibbin, head of the Northern Ireland civil service who is responsible for certifying that Stormont balances its books, has now formally written to Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the permanent secretary to at the treasury, to warn the UK government that he believes Northern Ireland is on course to breach its spending limits.

The air of crisis over the finances was compounded yesterday after the leader of the Alliance Party, David Ford yesterday said that budget cuts facing his department could lead him to resign.

In August, the minister suggested that his department faced a total shortfall to fill of £47 million, leading him to tell the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Justice Committee yesterday that if he believed his position was “no longer assisting the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland” he would “not be putting up with this”.

The stark realities of the cuts have been brought home by Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton. With the Police Service of Northern Ireland expected to make savings in the region of £50 million in the next six months, George Hamilton has warned that it will “radically reduce” the shape and size of the police service of Northern Ireland.

His comments follow a series of headlines outlining the impact of the cuts so far, including news that they could hold up the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland investigating a number of notorious killings committed during the troubles.

Speaking during the Conservative Party conference this week, Theresa Villiers has warned that Stormont cannot entertain the idea of gaining much-sought after powers over corporation tax without first sorting out the impasse over the budget. Addressing a fringe event in Birmingham, she argued:

“In practical terms, I don’t see how it would be feasible for the NI Executive to implement corporation tax cuts and fund it if it is still in dispute about its budget.”

For Labour, Ed Miliband used an interview with BBC Northern Ireland during the party conference in Manchester to call on ministers in Belfast to make the necessary cuts to welfare in order to avoid the treasury penalties.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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