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£100m 'social deprivation' funding 'must not repeat mistakes of SIF'

Extra funding of £100 million for "pockets of severe deprivation" forms part of the DUP's deal with the Conservatives.

EXTRA funding of £100 million for "pockets of severe deprivation" should not be distributed in the same way as the controversial Social Investment Fund, an MLA has said.

The £100m in funding - £20m per year over five years - was announced yesterday as part of the DUP's deal with the Conservatives.

The north will receive an extra £1bn as part of an agreement between the parties.

A document outlining details of the deal read: "In order to target pockets of severe deprivation so that all can benefit from growth and prosperity, the UK Government will also provide £20m per year for five years to support the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver this measure".

However questions have been raised about how the money will be allocated.

The £80 million Social Investment Fund (SIF) was also designed to help deprived communities but has been mired in controversy over concerns about the alleged role of paramilitaries.

Last year, it emerged that £1.7m of SIF funding had been allocated to Charter NI, an east Belfast organisation headed by North Down UDA commander Dee Stitt.

The money was awarded to enable Charter NI to manage an employment project in east Belfast, despite concerns that the UDA remained involved in criminality and intimidation in north Down.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said last night his party would look closely at how the new funds are distributed, in light of the SIF scandal.

"We don't know if this will be another Social Investment Fund or not," he said.

"From the Alliance's point of view we will be closely scrutinising how this money is spent."

Mr Dickson said SIF funds had been "filtered through paramilitaries" and he did not want to see a repeat of this.

"If there is no executive there will be much less scrutiny of how this money is allocated and spent," he said. "That's why it's important that we have a fully-functioning executive up and running as soon as possible."

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said while her party "wouldn't be turning its nose up at a billion pounds for Northern Ireland, we need to be sure that it's spent in everyone's interest".

She said the distribution of the extra £1bn in funding needed to be scrutinised, not just the £100m for social deprivation.

"The devil will be in the detail," she said. "It underlines the need for an executive which can allocate funding, and closer scrutiny of how this money is being spent."

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