Northern Ireland

Stormont stalemate: Brokenshire to make financial decisions

James Brokenshire

The Northern Ireland secretary of state looks set to make some financial decisions for Northern Ireland, the BBC understands.

Civil servants are currently in control of Stormont's finances because the executive collapsed before agreeing a 2017-18 budget.

But James Brokenshire's intervention will stop short of imposing a budget for now.

There is, however, money in the system which needs allocated to departments.

A figure of £116m is being cited, including £42m flowing from the Chancellor's spring budget in March, under the Barnett formula.

Mr Brokenshire is expected to make decisions on this cash soon, possibly as early as next week.

This would result in the money being allocated and legislation is not required to do this.

In the House of Commons on Monday, the secretary of state talked of a need "address immediate health and education pressures".

Mr Brokenshire said he would "reflect" on his next move after talks failed to restore a power-sharing executive.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January, when the coalition led by the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, collapsed over a green energy scandal

Officials in control

Under the current rules, civil servants only have control of 75% of the £10bn block grant.

By the end of July, this will rise to 95% of funds.

But they are reluctant to take some spending decisions in the absence of direction from ministers.

The issue of passing a full budget for Northern Ireland from Westminster, in the absence of Stormont, is on hold for now.

The autumn is thought the more probable time for this, if a political deal continues to prove elusive.

A budget would give Northern Ireland access to all its block grant.

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