No room for complacency from Civil Service budget warns Alliance

Alliance Deputy Leader and Finance Spokesperson Stephen Farry has warned over complacency as civil servants today take control of the budget, adding no-one should underestimate the long-term damage to public services and the economy.

Describing the situation as ‘extremely serious’, Dr Farry stressed the short to medium term move would have immediate implications for Northern Ireland.

He said: “To see the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance having to step in to allow the flow of resources from the Block Grant to Departments is extremely serious. Furthermore, there is too much complacency in some quarters that we can muddle through on this basis.

“This intervention will ensure the flow of money on a short-to-medium term basis, and while the civil service may have their own planning assumptions, but this is no substitute for the certainty that comes from an Executive Budget that is struck at a political level. The opportunity for the strategic use of resources will be much reduced, and any new policy decisions and capital allocations are on hold.

“We do welcome some indications of short term financing for the community and voluntary sector, but are very conscious that implementation of this does need to be tightly monitored and enforced.

“Overall, there remains an absolute imperative of getting an Executive in place that can put in place a formal Budget. In the absence of that in the coming weeks, we reluctantly accept the need for Westminster to intervene to strike a regional rate and to take any other immediate financial decisions. Indeed, we highlighted this particular scenario to the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, just after the Assembly Election.

“However, whatever now happens, it does need to be recognised that considerable damage will be incurred by public services and our economy will have been undermined by late and non-strategic decisions. Indeed, the consequences could be with us for years.”

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