Sinn Féin claim DUP-Tory cash is being used to 'plug budget cuts'
SINN Féin has claimed money from the DUP-Tory confidence and supply deal that was supposed to tackle severe deprivation is being used to plug budget cuts.
Last year's agreement, that sees the DUP's 10 MPs support Theresa May's minority government in Westminster, saw £20m a year over the next five years allocated to three Stormont departments.
However, Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey claimed the money is being used to "mitigate" budget cuts rather than being added to existing programmes, as expected.
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Mr Maskey said after writing to the relevant departments he learned that only one of the seven programmes that money had been earmarked for had its budget increased.
"The other six programmes have the same budget as last year – this shows that the remaining £19.4m was used to plug cuts," he said.
“The DUP endorsed cuts to anti-deprivation programmes and then took credit for plugging those cuts with the confidence and supply money – it is smoke and mirrors."
DUP MLA Simon Hamilton told the BBC that Mr Maskey should be thanked for "highlighting how crucial the additional money secured by the DUP has been for hard-pressed communities".
"However, Alex Maskey also exposes how SF has delivered nothing for these communities – Sinn Féin boycotts the assembly, the executive and the House of Commons therefore has surrendered all influence and power," he said.
Meanwhile, SDLP Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty has raised doubts over the delivery of a £150m ultra-fast broadband investment package that was also pledged under the DUP-Tory pact.
Mr McNulty was speaking after meeting the communications regulator Ofcom.
"Earlier this year the civil service announced it was consulting political parties on how to implement this investment but it now appears that this much needed investment will fall victim to an inactive Stormont," he said.
"With no executive and no minister in place this project is going nowhere fast."