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Sunak to be pressed for more funds for NI public services

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be pressed to provide more funding for public services in Northern Ireland when he meets ministers of the restored Stormont Executive today.

They have written to Mr Sunak, who arrived in Northern Ireland last night, for a visit to Parliament Buildings today along with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The two men will meet together and with the incoming Stormont Executive which was restored on Saturday after a two year collapse, caused by a DUP withdrawal from power-sharing.

The letter, signed by all 10 Stormont ministers says the £3.3 billion financial package offered by the UK government to the incoming executive will not put Northern Ireland’s public services on a secure footing.

“If we are to tackle the serious problems across public services – in our hospitals and in our schools – then how we are funded needs to change and I will be strong in strongly pressing that point at today’s meeting,” said First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

The letter says a new funding model proposed for Northern Ireland will “trap Executive funding below need” once the extra money provided by the UK for the restored executive runs out.

It also says the £584 million provided to address public sector pay is not recurrent and there remains a gap of around £100m to address all the pay demands and bring Northern Ireland public sector pay broadly into line with Great Britain.

The ministers said the existing shortfall and the requirement to honour the pay agreements annually would leave the Executive forced to make “damaging cuts to public services of the order of hundreds of millions of pounds next financial year and every financial year in order to meet growing pay pressures”.

The letter also asks for talks about UK support for large scale capital projects.

Deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly said Mr Sunak would hear the new executive speaking with “one voice”.

“We will be saying that the people of Northern Ireland deserve better public services and that we need to work together – the executive and the government – to deliver long term fiscal stability.”

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