The announcement of a much-needed cash injection to stabilise the budget and spending of Northern Irelands department has wide reaching implications. Health and education departments are the major beneficiaries of £131m in additional money for a range of front line services.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, made the announcement in a monitoring round, with Health receiving – £60m, and education getting £30m. The rest of the money will be divided between departments with spending controlled by civil servants in the absence of a functioning Executive.
The cash had been coming down the line with £42m coming from the chancellor’s spring budget in March, under the Barnett formula., the rest from an underspend from the 2016-17 Stormont budget.
This is Westminster’s second intervention after previously having to sort out rates bills, and it could be forced to impose a budget in the autumn if a political deal is not struck to allow a return of Stormont.
The funding allocation did not include any of the £1bn agreed for Northern Ireland between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the deal to secure support for Theresa May’s minority government.
The impact of this ad hoc approach will be felt in the months ahead by the third sector, since areas like education which faced cuts have now been reprieved. The political paralysis continues with the summer holidays being a stop gap until talks reconvene.
Our sources close to the parties confirm that the deal remains elusive despite recent intensive talks yet the original urgency has not been followed through by the British Government whose flexible deadlines and side deals with parties appear to place a question mark over their role in the talks. On a positive note the peaceful marching season has ensured that there can be no further excuses made.