Stormont facing £100m welfare penalty

Stormont facing £100m welfare penalty

The Stormont Executive is facing a potential £100m penalty over its failure to implement Westminster imposed welfare reform.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said he has received a letter from the Treasury in London outlining the amount of money which is to be taken out of this year's budget if spending cuts are not put in place.Sources have told UTV how the penalty will be imposed across the various departments in the Executive with health being the biggest loser.The Department of Health, which has faced severe criticism recently over the strain it is under, could lose £68.2m.Education could lose £29m, Justice £16m, the Regional Development £5m, while Social Development faces a near £10m cut in its spending.Sinn Féin have dismissed the warning as "scare tactics".Both Sinn Féin and the DUP have been at loggerheads over the controversial Welfare Reform Bill.The DUP argue that failure to implement the bill will have a devastating effect on the economy while Sinn Féin argue it will hurt the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland society.Mr Hamilton told UTV: "The Executive needs to take a decision as to what to do on welfare reform and the fall out of not proceeding with welfare reform."What the Executive, Sinn Féin and the deputy First Minister need to do is to show leadership and proceed with welfare reform on the very attractive basis that Nelson McCausland has negotiated for us," the DUP MLA said.Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey responded: "It is really immature for Simon Hamilton to adopt this approach."If he got a letter over the weekend he should take it to the Executive and it should be discussed by the Executive instead of making these silly announcements that all of a sudden he is taking £70m off the health budget."He doesn't have the right to make that decision."

© UTV

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