A financial support package totalling £2.5 billion has been put together by the UK government to ease the pressure on the Northern Ireland Executive, but the package will only be ratified once Stormont is up and running again. This of course is something that we have all been waiting for, however whether it will come to pass is anyone’s guess. The various parties involved still see many issues to be resolved and do not seem very optimistic that the Executive will be sitting just yet.
A New Needs-Based Funding Formula For Public Services
Here is the basis of the financial package, as copied from an article today on the BBC News website:
“It would include a lump sum to settle public sector pay claims and a new “needs-based” funding formula for public services.
“It would also allow budget overspends at Stormont from last year and this year to be repaid over five years.
“An executive would have to commit to raising rates – the property taxes paid by households and businesses – by at least 15%.
“Stormont’s Department of Finance has previously said it is facing £580m of public sector pay pressures this year, but it is not certain if the government would fully fund that.
“A new, long-term funding arrangement would begin in 2024-25 with a top up to the block grant to make sure spending per person in Northern Ireland did not fall below a “fiscal floor”.
“This is based on arrangements in Wales where, for every £100 per head spent on public services in England, there is a guaranteed £115 for Wales.
“That takes into account the different costs of delivering public services of an equal standard in different parts of the UK.
“The package would also include a four-year “stabilisation fund” worth £1.125bn.
“Aside from increasing rates a new executive would also have to commit to other revenue raising measures by May next year and establish a Public Services Transformation Board.”
Unions To Strike Over Pay
Meanwhile, Unison have announced that their members are going to go on strike on January 18th in a protest over pay. Unison representative Stephanie Greenwood also struck a note of caution over the proposed financial package. She is quoted in the same article, saying:
“Often when the British government puts an offer like that on the table, it’s given with one hand and taken away with the other and we really can’t have that this time,” she told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.
“Public sector workers need a pay rise first and foremost, regardless of any outcome on Wednesday, and he has the power to do that no matter what he said.”
It appears we have a way to go before all parties are satisfied that their demands have been met and negotiations can finally turn into real progress.