The UK government offered Northern Irish political groups a package of financial stabilization measures totaling more than £2.5bn for five years, contingent on the return to Stormont of the Stormont executive.
Party leaders met with Chris Heaton Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, on Monday at Hillsborough. They stated that his efforts were insufficient.
Heaton-Harris said that London is ready to help with the economic crisis, worsened by the two-year political deadlock leading to the downfall of the power-sharing Executive.
This crisis was caused by the Democratic Unionist Party, which held separate talks for months with London in order to change the post-Brexit deal to include Northern Ireland. The aim of these separate discussions was to strengthen the region’s position within the UK as well as its ability to trade with Britain.
Westminster’s proposal includes funding to stabilize the finances of the Northern Ireland Administration, improve pressured services, and increase public sector salaries this year.The offer also includes a new assessment of the formula based on needs for funding the region.
Sources say the UK government may be able to cancel an overspending budget of £559 million.However, this would depend on Stormont taking measures to raise revenue.
Tuesday, technical talks will continue about the offer. Party leaders are expected back in Hillsborough on Wednesday.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stated that he opposed rushing the process and emphasized that his party will stand firm.
Donaldson, after the first round of all-party discussions with Heaton Harris since July, told reporters that “there’s still work to be done.”
Sinn Fein, a nationalist party which is the largest one in the area, stated that the offer “doesn’t even scratch the surface” of what’s required.
Naomi Long, who is leading the Alliance, the third force of the region, stated that it wasn’t about “dangling ornaments in front of us before Christmas”.
She added, “The amount of the offer is not enough.”
London has imposed drastic budget cuts and a massive overspending on the region after nearly two years of political turmoil in the area. The parties claim that this leaves the funding available for the region far below the amount needed.
London provides a grant of 15 billion pounds to Northern Ireland every year. Heaton-Harris said the region received 21 percent more funding than other parts in the UK, but spent it inefficiently.
He has launched public consultations to find ways of raising more revenue that are not popular, like introducing water charges.
Unison workers protested in front of Hillsborough Castle, where politicians met on Monday. Deborah Yapicioz is the joint-chairwoman of the union’s Health Committee. She said that the UK has the lowest-paid NHS staff, social care workers, and teachers. Unison had to set up food banks for some workers, while others chose to work in stores where they could earn more money.