Stormont talks: Conglomerate of business lobbyists calls for more money for Northern Ireland and 'difficult decisions' on how it is spent

A conglomerate of Northern Irish business groups has called for what amounts to a funding boost from the London treasury into the Province’s public coffers, coupled with “difficult decisions” on how it is spent.
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The Northern Ireland Business Alliance made the plea tonight in a letter to party leaders and the Secretary of State, saying the coming days are “crucial” for a deal (though both the DUP and UUP have indicated nothing much will happen before Christmas).

The business alliance is basically a lobby group made up of smaller NI lobby groups – The Centre for Competitiveness, the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland, the Institute of Directors, and the Chamber of Commerce.

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It comes amid general pressure for the Province to get more public cash per head, compared with the general UK population, than it already does.

General image of sterling notesGeneral image of sterling notes
General image of sterling notes

The alliance said: “An agreement needs to deliver the restoration of a fully-functioning and stable Executive, underpinned by an ambitious new fiscal framework which enables public sector transformation and catalyses inclusive economic growth.

“We have outlined our shared view that a reformulation of the Barnett formula that truly reflects need in practice, together with a short, sharp independent of review public spending that demands difficult decisions from an Executive, are the basis from which we hope to see political agreement.

"We expect this to be followed by an agreed Programme for Government at the earliest opportunity. The coming days are crucial.

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“If a restored Executive can act soon, the prize could not only be stabilising public services, but a genuine catalyst for growth which supports business, jobs and economic prosperity for the benefit of all.

"It is incumbent on both the Executive parties and the Westminster government to seize the opportunity now.”

Echoing the mood of the DUP leadership on Monday, UUP leader Doug Beattie said he “can’t see anything happening this side of Christmas”.

He added that the real “decision-makers” – namely treasury figures and NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris were not even present for Monday’s talks (though Mr Heaton-Harris is expected in the Tuesday session).

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Meanwhile Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry accused the DUP of “dragging out” the process of negotiations, adding: “There is no excuse for the assembly and executive not being in place, whether it is today or 18 months ago.”