Sir Jeffrey Donaldson challenges other party leaders on Stormont cash

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has challenged the other leaders of parties in the Stormont Executive to outline which of their departments needs cash from the extra £300 million the power-sharing government failed to spend last year.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a cut to household rates bills would help ease cost of living pressures
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a cut to household rates bills would help ease cost of living pressures

The DUP leader has written to Executive party leaders asking how much of the millions each of them want to spend to ease the cost of living crisis.

Sir Jeffrey also urged the other leaders to “park” the debate over whether or not the DUP needs to nominate a first minister and reach an agreement on allocating the £300m now, a DUP spokesperson said.

They said the Department of Justice is estimated alone to need £75m for the rising costs of heating prisons and providing fuel for police cars.

The DUP pointed out that Sir Jeffrey was the only party leader in the currently deadlocked power-sharing coalition so far to put forward a practical proposal that would help cut bills for households under increasing financial pressue due to the hikes in fuel, energy and food prices.

Sinn Fein insists the only way the Executive can agree a budget and also release the £300m is if the DUP nominates a first minister, which would enable a regional government to function before fresh elections in May.

DUP first minister Paul Givan resigned earlier this year as part of his party’s campaign against the Northern Ireland Protocol, a move which also removed deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill from the joint office.

Sir Jeffrey has suggested household rates bills could be cut to help households amid the cost of living crisis using the surplus £300m.

In the absence of an agreed budget, departments will have to rely on emergency arrangements to keep day-to-day services running in the 2022/23 financial year.

He also asked how much of the £300 million each leader wants to ease the cost of living crisis.

In his letter, Sir Jeffrey asked leaders to “park” the debate about whether a first minister is needed and to reach an agreement on what the allocation amounts will be.

Meanwhile, the SDLP is set to try to introduce emergency legislation at Stormont to release the £300 million.

Ms O’Neill yesterday responded to Sir Jeffrey’s latest call, tweeting: “The DUP should put the interests of the people before its own party politics. They should renominate to the Executive as that is the route to agree three-year budget and spend the £300m to support families through the cost of living crisis.”