DUP blame Sinn Féin for uniform grant cuts

School classroom. Stock image
School classroom. Stock image

The DUP say Sinn Féin’s refusal to form an Executive is to blame for a £3 million cut to financial help for low income families to pay for school uniforms.

The Education Authority has confirmed that is has been asked by the Department of Education to cut £3 million from the budget for school uniform grants.

Sinn Féin, however, have blamed the DUP’s support for Theresa May’s government at Westminster for giving the Tory party a “blank cheque for their cuts”.

DUP MLA Peter Weir said the uniform grant is “being cut by unelected officials because Sinn Fein refuse to form an Executive”.

Alex Maskey, in a statement, said: “This proposed reduction is an attack on children and families from deprived communities and a further result of Tory austerity cuts. Since the Tories came into power we have seen over a billion cut from the North’s block grant.

“The DUP in their support for Theresa May’s Tory government has handed them a blank cheque for their cuts and a Tory Brexit.”

He added: “I have asked for urgent meetings with both the Education Authority and the Department and will be calling on them to reverse this cut immediately.”

The DUP MLA Peter Weir, however, issued a statement saying: “The Sinn Féin stock answer to everything currently is to blame Theresa May. As well as blaming Westminster for the cut to school uniform grants Alex Maskey has gone further to say he will be seeking a meeting with the Department of Education to discuss it with them.”

He continued: “This uniform grant is being cut by unelected officials because Sinn Fein refuse to form an Executive. Instead of requesting meetings with civil servants Alex Maskey’s party colleagues could be sitting around the Executive table with the other parties actually taking the decisions on these matters.

“The DUP wanted to form an Executive four months ago and again last Thursday. This has been blocked on each and every occasion by Sinn Fein who placed their own shopping list of issues, including a gold-plated Irish Language Act above the needs of the health service, the community and voluntary sector and now those hard-pressed families who rely on school uniform grants.”

Mr Weir added: “The lack of an Executive and budget has placed massive uncertainly on public services. This is not Tory austerity, but self-imposed Sinn Fein austerity. To quote Alex Maskey, this is indeed an attack on children and families from deprived communities, but it is an attack that was entirely preventable and Sinn Fein had the ability to ensure it did not happen.”

The DUP MLA continued: “An Executive should be formed immediately and processes could be put in place to deal with the issues that Sinn Fein is now complaining about, but refusing to deal with.”

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “In its recent Resource Budget Allocation letter, the Department of Education (DE) has instructed the Education Authority (EA) to make certain spending cuts to achieve budget savings. These include a reduction in £3million for school uniform grants.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “As a consequence of the indicative budget for the Department of Education announced by the Secretary of State on 24th April, the Department faces major financial pressures in 2017-18 if it is to operate within its budget. Consequently options to reduce spending across all programme areas are being explored, including the clothing allowance (uniform grants), extended schools and the entitlement framework. Final decisions on the scale of the budget reductions have not been taken on all areas and will depend on the Department’s final budget allocation. Those decisions that have been made have been communicated to the relevant organisations.”