Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: Pay rise and a 'funding rollercoaster'

News Letter Image copyright News Letter
Daily Mirror Image copyright Trinity Mirror

The effects of the Stormont stalemate are becoming clearer with every passing day - and things don't look good for anyone.

Unless of course you are one of the 90 MLAs who - according to the Belfast Telegraph - are set to get a pay rise.

That's despite the Assembly not actually having sat for a full day of business since long before the March election.

Image copyright Ansaharju
Image caption The Belfast Telegraph says MLAs can expect a pay rise on 1 April

According to the paper, the rise will kick in on April Fool's Day and will see wages increase by £500 per year, bringing salaries to £49,500.

The paper reports a Stormont source confirmed the rise would go ahead because "the consumer prices index for the September of the previous year was 1% or greater," and would happen automatically because of a measure put in place by the independent body that sets MLAs' wages.

The Belfast Telegraph has also carried out its own poll on the issue and it says 93% of people surveyed would support stopping MLAs' wages altogether while the Assembly isn't functioning.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Staff at First Steps Women's Centre are among those who say they are facing unemployment

In the Mirror we see the other side of the Stormont-deadlock coin, where it is claimed that 12,000 jobs could go as a result of the stalemate.

The paper says a lack of progress by politicians means some 12-month contracts in the voluntary sector won't be renewed because no-one has been able to give the go-ahead for the funding.

Staff at First Steps Women's Centre are among those who say they are facing unemployment.

'Funding rollercoaster'

"Our hundreds of clients are some of the most vulnerable in the country," said the organisation's chief executive, Michael McGoldrick.

"They deserve better, we all do.

"We are constantly on a funding rollercoaster, but this situation is particularly stomach churning.

"The prospect of us all losing our jobs is awful, but worse is the knock-on effect of us not being here and available to help the people who need us most.

"Those who are the most vulnerable are always first to be hit by this sort of problem and they are those who can least afford it."

There's further criticism of the lack of leadership up at Stormont in the News Letter - it has chosen to go with the line: "RHI official now controls all our public spending".

Image caption Mr Sterling was not personally responsible for designing the RHI scheme

Northern Ireland's devolved finances have today been passed to David Sterling.

The senior civil servant will use emergency powers to release cash and resources to departments until a new budget is in place.

But the News Letter has pointed to Mr Sterling's links to the Renewable Heat Incentive. He was the most senior civil servant in the department that set up the "financially disastrous" initiative.

Mr Sterling was not personally responsible for designing the RHI scheme, something which was done by the Energy Division within DETI.

He has taken over because the last finance minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, did not agree a budget.

The paper also reports that annual rates bills could be delayed because of the political deadlock.

The Irish News reports that a senior civil servant has said a DUP minister who lit an eleventh night bonfire was committing "an offence".

The front page is dominated by a picture of the former community's minister setting fire to the bonfire in South Tyrone last year.

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Image caption The DUP did not respond to requests for a comment, the Irish News reports

The DUP and DUP-led executive departments at the time refused to respond to repeated requests for a comment, The Irish News reports.

But it says that newly released emails show how staff in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) discussed whether to respond.

One Stormont official is quoted as having said in an email at the time: "In essence lighting the bonfire is an offence."

Asked about the Daera correspondence, the DUP did not respond to requests for a comment, the Irish News reports.