DUP and SF in ‘blame game’ over budget cuts

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Former education minister Peter Weir has said it is “rich” for Sinn Fein to point the finger at the DUP for cuts to the education budget.

Sinn Fein education spokesperson Karen Mullan said “local schools and local children are paying the price for Tory austerity backed by the DUP” after it was announced that the funding for the Entitlement Framework would be reduced by £2million for 2017/18.

“We are not the blockage,” said Mr Weir. “We would like to be in government tomorrow dealing with the issues facing health and education and as part of that we have levered in additional money while Sinn Fein have effectively sat on their hands.”

He added: “I think it’s a little bit rich of Sinn Fein to have a go in terms of budget when not only have they not achieved anything in terms of attaining any money, but they are also refusing to have any level of local control over how any of the budget is spent.

“If Sinn Fein are looking for culprits in this they need to look a little closer to home.”

The Department of Education confirmed that the Entitlement Framework – a fund which enables schools to offer more subjects to pupils – is to be reduced by £2m from the 2016/17 budget of £4.9m.

Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said the decision to slash the funding is just the latest example of how the political stalemate at Stormont is having a detrimental impact on children and young people.

SDLP education spokesperson Colin McGrath said he was shocked to learn that funding under the Entitlement Framework is to be cut by almost half, given that he had met with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education last week and there had been no mention of the impending cut.

He added: “It is disingenuous in the extreme to blame this on others – parties here need to use their mandates to form an inclusive administration that tackles these very issues. The public won’t accept more buck passing.”