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ANALYSIS: Pressures on north's purse building by day

John Manley (1044097)

Stormont's recent history has been characterised by cycles of crises and deals, and once again we find ourselves staring into oblivion – or direct rule, at least.

Those who thought we could relax over the summer and reconvene in September to sort out the executive's finances didn't take account of the fact that Westminster sits through much of July.

In the weeks since the assembly broke up we've seen an emergency budget, changes to the Barnet Formula and further welfare cuts – all impacting adversely on an already shaky financial situation.

The prospects for resolving this deepening crisis aren't promising.

Even before the additional pressures were heaped on the executive, Sinn Féin and the SDLP were resisting efforts to curtail welfare spending.

They maintain that the north is a special case with special spending needs, whereas unionists tend to believe that the region can somehow stand on its own two feet.

Often the disagreement appears as much about ideology as balancing the books.

All the parties seem to agree that a fresh round of talks is needed – and quickly – but after the exhaustive Stormont House negotiations and the subsequent fall-out, there's little appetite for getting around the table.

It's also hard to see where a solution can be found, with nationalists digging in their heals and the Tories flatly refusing to hand over more money.

On top of this, Stormont is already well into the red, meaning the option of deferring financial reality through borrowing isn't available.

When Sammy Wilson warns of Stormont's imminent demise from Westminster's benches you can't help but think he's being mischievous, but with the pressures on the executive's purse building by the day, the former finance minister's words may just turn out to be true.

 

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