Frustration and Stagnation: A Call for Action in Northern Ireland's Political Landscape - Aiken

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Frustration and Stagnation: A Call for Action in Northern Ireland's Political Landscape - Aiken

Ulster Unionist Finance spokesperson Dr. Steve Aiken OBE MLA highlights concerns regarding the timeframe to deliver the £3.3 billion settlement.

“Yesterday, we should have been gathering in the Assembly to deliberate on the allocation of the £3.3 billion settlement agreement between the Treasury and the Executive Political Parties.

“These resources were intended to cover the public sector pay award, finally acknowledging Northern Ireland's prolonged under-resourcing and effectively writing off our overspend. Although this funding wouldn't have addressed every need, it would have significantly contributed to stabilizing our public sector.

“However, we find ourselves in a ludicrous situation – agreed funding with no mechanism in place to spend it. While releasing funds for the public sector pay award may seem like an obvious first step, it places the responsibility on the Secretary of State, absolving the DUP of the duty to revive the Assembly. Time is rapidly running out to spend the money.

“The overall package, particularly around transformation, requires engaging contracts, advancing 'shovel-ready' projects, addressing hospital waiting lists, and establishing re-profiled funding arrangements. These monies must be spent within the next 2.5 months.

“Shortly, the Treasury will prepare for the March pre-election budget, without Northern Ireland undergoing a formal budget and estimate process—a dereliction of duty, not of the Secretary of State, but of this non-functioning Assembly.

“Coupled with a looming comprehensive spending review in 2025, we had just over a year to maximize flexibilities in the pre-Christmas financial settlement and initiate transformation to lock in the change process. Currently, our Civil Service operates sub-optimally, lacking clear financial direction and relying on the hope that something might just turn up.

“Despite receiving much of what we asked for last month, a political party is dithering, lacking a plan, with time rapidly running out. Regardless of the machinations of the Windsor Framework, every day of delay makes governing increasingly difficult.

“As Westminster sinks into political stagnation and faces global problems, we are becoming ever more peripheral, all due to the actions of one political party. This is no way to repair public service pay gaps, deal with waiting lists, initiate transformation, or, more importantly, secure our Union.”