Secretary of State did not go far enough in providing certainty on decision-making, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the Secretary of State did not go far enough in providing certainty as to how decisions can be taken, after he set out spending allocations to Northern Ireland Departments.

Dr Farry said James Brokenshire’s intervention was “sadly inevitable” given the failure of political parties to restore a functioning Executive but added it was “the absolute bare minimum the Secretary of State should be doing at this stage”.

“Alliance would much prefer these decisions would be taken by a local Executive but our political process remains in an unnecessary and destructive deadlock. Public services do need to be able to continue to function.

“It must be clearly understood real damage to our economy and public services has already occurred. Major investments and reforms have been delayed in the absence of any devolved Executive. Bearing in mind the tight public expenditure context, every day entails opportunity costs in terms of any strategic approach to spending decisions and frustrates efficiency and effectiveness in terms of spending decisions.

“Civil servants remain in an unclear legal situation in terms of taking spending and other decisions in the absence of any ministerial control. Difficult choices inevitably have to be made, as most Departments remain in a situation where cuts to public expenditure are having to be made in order for the books to balance.

“This hiatus now seems destined to stretch into October at the earliest. It will be increasingly hard for Permanent Secretaries and others to rely on the legacy positions of outgoing Ministers from the beginning of 2017. Alliance believes the Secretary of State could have gone further and legislated to provide a clearer interim framework for decision-making.

“But the reason why we are in this mess lies with the failures of some local parties. And it is frustrating deep problems in health and education, and a pause in our economic transformation, have not provided an impetus to a resolution of current political difficulties.”

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