Alliance Party calls for emergency budget legislation

Stephen Farry from Alliance
Stephen Farry from Alliance

Emergency budget legislation to save thousands of employees from redundancy in Northern Ireland should be passed urgently, the Alliance Party said.

Dr Stephen Farry called on Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to intervene with a Westminster rule change if agreement on forming an Executive is not found in the next three weeks.

He said: "It represents a sensible and pragmatic response to provide to the civil service a more realistic funding decision to be taken to avoid even further damage being done to public services and the economy from the already delayed budget, and to avoid the people of Northern Ireland being unreasonably punished for the failure of their politicians, which could take several years to recover from."

He said the lack of advanced notification of next year's budget has led to potentially thousands of employees, especially within the community and voluntary sector, being placed on protective notice.

"In the best case scenario of a formal budget being agreed before the end of March, we will see departments, arm's-length bodies and other organisations having to spend money from a standing start.

"If the Executive is not restored and a budget promptly agreed, the situation could be even worse."

The emergency provisions say only 75% of last year's budget can be allocated at the end of March.

There are no legal means to strike a regional rate, meaning a shortfall of well over £1 billion in spending power, Dr Farry added.

"Therefore we can expect some type of freeze on any discretionary spending, which would have a disproportionate impact on the community and voluntary sector."

Alliance also proposed civil servants be allowed to set a regional rate and pay out the accruing resources.