DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory Chief Whip Gavin Williamson signed the deal in front of their party leadersImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The DUP-Tory pact was signed in June

The Northern Ireland Civil Service plans to ask the Treasury for £20m from the DUP’s confidence-and-supply deal with the Conservative Party for use within the next four months.

The prime minister made a deal with the DUP after losing her majority in the general election in June.

A memo from the Department of Finance obtained by the BBC outlined the plans.

It stated that £15m of the money will be used to ease pressures in the health service.

The other £5m will be given to education in this financial year.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State James Brokenshire told MPs the government would make available £50m of the confidence deal cash when it got an official request from the Northern Ireland administration.

The memo said that while £20m will be requested for immediate use, the need to access the remaining £30m will be “kept under review”.

It said “a key consideration will be whether it would be best to propose accessing the funding” in the financial year which ends in April or in the next financial year.

The memo said the Treasury has agreed to carry forward any of the first tranche of DUP cash not immediately requested into the next financial year.

The Shadow Secretary of State Owen Smith has raised concerns over the allocation of money from the DUP-Tory deal before it has been granted approval in Parliament.

“No one is going to oppose more money being spent on Health and Education in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“But allocating this money before approval has been sought and granted in Parliament will only increase concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability that surrounds the DUP-Tory Confidence and Supply arrangement.

“The secretary of state was very clear with Parliament a couple of weeks ago when he put through his budget that there would have to be parliamentary approval and a vote in the commons on the allocation of the DUP money.”

He added: “Now it seems as though the money has to be allocated and then we’re going to be asked to approve it after the fact.

“It’s a bit like building your bungalow and then applying for retrospective planning approval.”

Reshuffling

The £20m is included in a total of £114m being reallocated by the Department of Finance to help meet Stormont spending pressures.

Health’s budget is being topped up by £54m and education by £26m.

The Department for Infrastructure is also getting £26m, some of which will deal with roads’ maintenance issues.

This is not new money, but a reshuffling of existing finance.

The Department of Health said it includes money for a 1% pay rise, but that this cannot be paid immediately because of there is no minister.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, welcomed the re-allocation of funding.

“The finance allocated should ensure that planned cuts to health and education programmes do not therefore proceed,” he said.

However, the Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Health spokesperson said the decision was one that would require “further explanation”.

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs said: “Why, given the length of waiting lists and demand on the health service, is only £15m being accessed in this financial year and what are the plans are for the remaining money?

“Is it a case that this is still an administration that can’t spend the money its given?”.

SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed the allocation.

However, Mr Durkan said “huge questions” now exist over a pay increase for frontline staff and pressures across trust areas.

He said: “The money has now, at long last, been made available for a pay increase for frontline staff. But my understanding is, critically, that it is dependent on political agreement here.

“That means without a health minister, there will be no allocation to staff who have stretched themselves to breaking point to cover the failings of politicians.”

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