NI Secretary of State should release pay funding immediately

Speaking in the NI Assembly today, DUP Finance Spokesperson Gordon Lyons said,

By Gordon Lyons MLA

East Antrim

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“This recall is much like the 5 others that came before it. It is a stunt. It has been cynically orchestrated to coincide with the industrial action scheduled across our public sector. This has been done in an attempt to make the public believe that the restoration of the Assembly today will lead to the cancellation of the strikes tomorrow.

Sinn Fein, know full well that there is no prospect of a speaker being elected today. They know there will not be ministers nominated today. And they know that if even those do happen, the pay issue will not be settled today but will be subject to negotiation between employers and unions. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Of course Sinn Fein have previous form in this regard. Their disinformation is nothing new.

  • They told the public there were hundreds of millions of pounds sitting in a Stormont bank account waiting to be spent if an Executive was restored. They were wrong, when in truth there was a huge overspend.

  • They told the public the Government’s household energy payments could be quickly delivered by local ministers - they were wrong. In truth, the fastest and simplest way was for the government to do it.

But as we found out last week in the High Court, Sinn Fein don’t like the truth. The barrier to public sector pay increases hasn’t been the lack of an Executive – it’s been the lack of finance to properly fund it.

We shouldn’t forget that the Department of Finance was able to progress a range of decisions on public sector pay over the course of the last year - so those powers still exist. However, each decision had to be affordable under the budget imposed by the Secretary of State. That is where the crux of the problem was and is. The cake simply isn’t big enough.

Much has been made by some other parties here, of the additional resource offered by the Government. Resource that wouldn’t be on offer if it were not for the DUP highlighting this issue. The extra money on the table is a good start, but it is just that.

What is presently on offer is a one-off package for public sector pay in the current financial year. Without being provided on recurring basis, it is difficult to see how Departments could ensure commitments to staff can be honoured in future years without significantly hampering the delivery of core public services.

However, if the Secretary of State has made the money ready, he should deliver it immediately. It is unfair on our public sector workers to tie it to a demand for increased household taxes, more revenue raising or the restoration of the Assembly.

We all know how important his issue is. Our public sector workers haven’t had the pay increases that they deserve for years. There has been an ever-growing squeeze on their incomes due to inflation and cost of living pressures.

In our discussions with the government, they have recognised this. They claim to have secured the money, albeit for one year. So they need to release it.

In addition to a stable financial foundation, we need a stable political foundation.

The arrangements from the Northern Ireland Protocol damaged the basis on which power sharing works, and has prevented the formation of an Executive. Our goal throughout this process has been to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK Internal Market as set out in our Manifesto.

In talks with the Government have made real and significant progress but will continue until there are arrangements agreed that unionists as well as nationalists can support.

That is our goal, but it should in no way prevent the SoS from providing the money necessary to ensure that public sector pay awards can be made and we urge him to do that today."

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