Secretary of state for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said that as the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein had failed to agree terms on the formation of a regional executive (no party has an outright majority), a buidget would be imposed from Westminster. A Budget Bill for Northern Ireland will now be introduced in the House of Commons next week to protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has been without a properly functioning devolved Executive and Assembly for nine months, much to the frustration of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF).
CEF managing director John Armstrong said earlier this week: “Across the construction industry, there is a strong and united view that the political impasse locally has gone on for far too long. With decisions having been put off, some projects stalled, confusion around the expenditure of elements of the capital budget and policy formulation having been drastically curtailed, there is a significant and increasingly harmful lack of governance within Northern Ireland.”
He said that infrastructure planning had ground to a halt and many construction firms were facing “a massive cliff edge”.
After the secretary of state’s invention, he subsequently added: “The announcement that a 2017/18 Northern Ireland Budget Bill will be introduced in Parliament immediately after next week’s recess is to be welcomed. This will, some seven months into the financial year, give the Northern Ireland Civil Service the certainty they need to ensure that the day to day functions of government are carried out.
“However, as both the UK and Irish governments have said, it is immensely frustrating that this routine function of any other government within these islands is not being conducted by a Northern Ireland Executive. Further, as we have already been clear about this week, today’s statement does nothing to plan for the future nor deal with major infrastructure funding challenges around the Executive’s flagship schemes, the lack of political authority to progress projects through their various approval stages nor the need to plan capital spending over a multi-year cycle where the all too familiar cliff edges for construction firms would be avoided.”
Mr Brokenshire told the House of Commons yesterday: “It remains firmly in the interests of Northern Ireland to see devolved government restored. To see locally elected politicians making decisions for the people of Northern Ireland on key local matters such as health, education, transport and economic development.
“We are clear that Northern Ireland needs a properly functioning inclusive devolved government, along with effective structures for co-operation north-south and east-west. But ultimately the government is responsible for good governance in Northern Ireland and we will to do whatever is necessary to provide that.”