Northern Ireland has been given a temporary reprieve from major cuts in health, education and policing after the Government at Westminster offered it flexibility on an almost £300 million ($A563 million) over-spend in its Budget.
However, the Northern Ireland Secretary in the United Kingdom Government, Chris Heaton-Harris, said that in the long term politicians and officials in the Province needed to do more to drive down costs to bring the region into line with spending in the rest of the UK.
Mr Heaton-Harris said he had been granted the flexibility by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, which would “provide some protection to front-line public services in Northern Ireland from having to take the most severe reductions”.
The Department of Health will get a slight increase of 0.5 per cent with infrastructure getting a 0.4 per cent rise in the UK-imposed Provincial Budget.
Decreases of just under two per cent will be imposed on education, justice, communities and agriculture.
It follows a letter from the head of the Northern Ireland Public Service, Jayne Brady (pictured) to Mr Heaton-Harris, warning of the damage if he imposed “unprecedented” Budget reductions to pay back the over-spend to the Treasury.
The decision comes amid mounting unrest within the Public Service as thousands of officers staging a walkout in protest over a £552 ($A1,037) pay offer they branded “insulting and derisory”.
General Secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), Carmel Gates said the offer represented about £7 ($A13.15) a week.
“It’s ridiculous. I mean, it doesn’t even pay the extra cost of bread and milk for the week, never mind anything else,” Ms Gates said.
A Department of Finance spokesperson said it recognised the pay award was below what staff and unions expected.
“Unfortunately, the Budget position does not provide any additional scope to offer a higher pay award,” the spokesperson said.
Source : PSnews