Extra £131m allocated to Stormont departments as crisis continues

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By Michael McHugh, Press Association

An extra £90 million has been allocated to health and education services in Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire said.

School principals had faced making "impossible" budget cuts while funds covering NHS nurse training have been under pressure and doctors have threatened to leave the public system due to problems with GP care.

With powersharing stalled in Northern Ireland there are no ministers to take decisions and civil servants have been running public services.

The Northern Ireland Secretary has stepped in, using civil service advice to reallocate budget money, taking into account extra funding provided in the Chancellor's Spring Budget.

The total of extra money is worth £131 million for everyday services as well as capital infrastructure expenditure. That compares to an overall spending package worth more than £10 billion.

It includes money carried forward from last year's budget and an increase in rates income, the tax paid by property owners, plus a reduction in welfare reform costs.

The bill for Assembly members at Stormont, which has not sat in months, has also reduced slightly.

Mr Brokenshire said: "While agreement remains possible, it is clear that an Executive will not be capable of being formed before the autumn.

"During that time pressures will continue to build, particularly in health and education services.

"And so, as I set out in my written statement on July 11, I consider it necessary to provide further clarity to support Northern Ireland permanent secretaries in addressing those pressures, maintaining public services and continuing to uphold the commitments arising from the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements."

The extra money includes £60.1 million for health and £30 million for education.

The allocations do not include an extra £1 billion pledged to Northern Ireland as part of the Conservatives' deal to ensure DUP support at Westminster.

Mr Brokenshire added: "This Government recognises the unique challenges faced by Northern Ireland as a result of its distinct history and geographical position.

"However, a restored Executive will need to agree how it wishes to allocate these funds to projects within the priority areas."

He said the Government had ultimate responsibility to uphold political stability and good governance in Northern Ireland.

"Accordingly, I reaffirm that the UK Government remains prepared to take forward legislation at Westminster to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments should an Executive not be restored in the autumn.

"If resolution continues to prove intractable beyond that point, we will take further steps to provide the necessary political decision-making in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland."

Devolved ministers in Belfast have not taken up their posts for months after Sinn Fein pulled out of the institutions.

Late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in January in protest at the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme which threatens to cost the taxpayer millions extra.

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