Northern Ireland granted £300m borrowing flexibility

15 Jan 16

The UK government has provided £300m of borrowing flexibility to the Northern Ireland Executive since a deal was reached to restart Stormont power-sharing in November, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has confirmed.

In an update on the progress made since the agreement, Villiers announced the Treasury had made a £200m capital borrowing facility available to fund a public sector voluntary redundancy scheme. Taking action to lower staff costs is intended to save the executive approximately £160m annually.

A further facility worth up to £100m has also been made available to support capital investment.

The quarterly update comes 58 days after the Fresh Start Agreement ended a financial and political impasse in the province, with agreement also reached to introduce welfare reforms that had threatened to bring down power sharing.

Under the new agreement, the executive has allocated an additional £585m over four years to ‘top-up’ the UK welfare arrangements in NI with a review set for 2018/19. This additional funding will allow the UK government’s wider welfare reforms to be introduced.

Following the agreements, £40m in welfare deductions made by the Treasury to reflect lower welfare spending in the rest of the UK have been pumped back into Northern Ireland spending.

Following the deal, NI first minister Peter Robinson announced he would step down, and he has since been replaced by former executive finance minister Arlene Foster. Her fellow Democratic Unionist assembly member Mervyn Storey has been named as new finance minister.

Villiers said the deal paved the way to “a brighter, more secure future for Northern Ireland”.

She added: “The UK government is working alongside Northern Ireland’s political leaders and the wider community to help build a society where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger and more united. We are backing the process with political will and influence and financial support. That will continue but in what promises to be a challenging year we cannot afford to slacken pace.

“There is a programme for action for the coming months, including full implementation of welfare reform in Northern Ireland and next steps on tackling paramilitary groups. We also agreed that measures to address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past must be addressed.”

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