NI leaders seek urgent meeting with Cameron over cuts

Stormont Ministers have been discussing the implications of the budget cuts

The first and deputy first ministers are to seek a meeting with the Prime Minister over the cuts outlined in the Chancellor's Spending Review.

The first and deputy first ministers continue to argue that the government has not fulfilled its commitments on providing capital spending to NI.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has rejected allegations he has broken his promises.

But the deputy first minister accused Mr Paterson of behaving shamefully.

On Friday, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson gave ministers a detailed briefing on the likely impact of the Spending Review.

Ministers are particularly concerned about a 40% cut in the capital spending budget - money which should have been used to build new roads, hospitals, schools and other public projects.

Afterwards, First Minister Peter Robinson confirmed the Executive wants a meeting with David Cameron to press him to deliver on previous financial commitments made to encourage the local parties to share power.

Mr Paterson has angrily rejected claims that the government has broken its word on the capital budget.

But far from accepting his reassurances, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused him of championing the Treasury rather than Northern Ireland.

'Protect vulnerable'

Executive ministers also noted the proposed cutbacks in welfare benefits and expressed their determination to protect the most vulnerable people.

Instead of taking their scheduled half term break the politicians will be back at Stormont on Monday to debate the cuts.

The executive is concerned about the potential consequences for investment strategy and funding the devolution of policing and justice funding.

Political editor Mark Devenport said executive sources suggested that some technical aspects of the Spending Review made a difficult situation worse.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson's department has estimated that NI faces cuts of £4bn over the next four years.

A statement released on behalf of the executive on Friday said Mr Wilson had given ministers a detailed briefing on the consequences of the review.

It said ministers were concerned about the potential consequences for the "investment strategy" and "worries were also expressed about some of the financial arrangements for the devolution of policing and justice".

"In addition to discussing the revenue and capital budget reductions the executive also noted the cutbacks proposed in social security provision," the statement added.

"Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the most vulnerable people in our society. It was acknowledged that the executive as a whole would have to engage intensively with the London government on the whole area of welfare reform.

"Ministers are further calling on the Coalition government to urgently engage with the executive so that the promised proposals to rebalance the economy can be brought forward with full input and agreement from the administration here.

"The executive's budget review group will meet next week to continue its detailed work and officials have been tasked to provide full support including potential initiatives to best protect the interests of Northern Ireland."

Mr Wilson arrived at an overall figure of £4bn by taking annual reductions in the Northern Ireland grant in each of the next four years and adding them together

The Treasury says the cut is less than half of that.

It arrives at its figure by comparing the NI grant for this financial year to what it will be in 2014/15.

The Secretary of State said on Friday that the government had kept to its commitments.

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