'Difficult decisions ahead' warns Northern Ireland civil service chief Jayne Brady as cuts loom

The decision making powers of Stormont's permanent secretaries will be significantly limited by law without ministers in office according to the head of Northern Ireland's civil service.

Jayne Brady was speaking after the Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris set a Northern Ireland budget last week.

She said cuts in spending of around two hundred million pounds during this financial year will be guided by information provided in the budget bill.

"There will obviously be some difficult choices that will need to be made to contain a £200 million over-spend in this period.

"We have statutory obligations to deliver services so those will be key aspects of maintenance, not to say there will not be difficult decisions in times ahead," said Ms Brady.

The civil service head says it's unlikely any major policy decisions will be made without ministers in office.

"Ultimately decisions should be made by those who have a political mandate and are democratically elected."

"The decision making power for permanent secretaries will be significantly limited and there will be decisions that we will not be able to make because it is beyond the powers of civil servants."

Ms Brady says civil servants will 'step up' as they have done previously.

"Every decision that will be performed by any permanent secretary will have to be mindful of the legislation in the budget bill, but also to maintain the public services that we have statutory obligations to do, so they will be done in a case-by-case basis.

"They will be extremely challenging and very difficult."

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