Armstrong calls on Department Permanent Secretary to meet MLAs immediately over welfare reform mitigation

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has called on the Department for Communities Permanent Secretary to meet MLAs immediately over welfare reform mitigation measures, after she said she wouldn’t until after May’s Council election.

Ms Armstrong was speaking after receiving a letter from Tracy Meharg, following her Department’s review of welfare mitigation funding. Mitigation measures are currently due to end in March 2020, with the review designed to advise a Minister on possible options beyond that.

However, while the Permanent Secretary acknowledges there will be ‘considerable interest’ in the outcome of the review, she states no meetings with MLAs should take place until after the local government election on May 2.

“While I understand the rules around a purdah period, this is a local government election and MLAs are not involved. Therefore, MLAs are not subject to purdah and will continue doing their jobs,” said Ms Armstrong.

“More pertinently, mitigation measures are scheduled to end in March 2020 – time is running out and every moment counts. To write off another five weeks for no good reason is simply not acceptable, especially when constituents are raising this issue with me and my colleagues every single day.

“I am calling on Tracy Meharg to meet with MLAs immediately so we can put our views across and outline the very real financial impacts on people. And unless we restore the Assembly, we are going to be faced with a cliff edge soon. While the DUP and Sinn Féin continue to refuse to form a Government, people are going to continue to be failed by those two parties.”
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