Ap­peal for more civil ser­vice pow­ers while Stor­mont is in limbo

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY MICHELLE WEIR

BUSI­NESS groups are to­day urg­ing Sec­re­tary of State Karen Bradley to re­solve the “paral­y­sis” in North­ern Ire­land af­fairs by giv­ing civil ser­vants more pow­ers in the ab­sence of an Ex­ec­u­tive.

In an un­prece­dented call to ac­tion, or­gan­i­sa­tions rang­ing from the CBI to the Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try — as well as sec­toral groups — are ap­peal­ing to the Sec­re­tary of State to “re­store sta­ble gov­er­nance”.

They have writ­ten to Karen Bradley to ask her for spe­cial leg­isla­tive mea­sures to tem­po­rar­ily em­power se­nior civil ser­vants to take cru­cial day-to-day de­ci­sions while there is still no Ex­ec­u­tive.

The move comes af­ter a ju­di­cial re­view this month over­turned a de­ci­sion by the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary at the De­part­ment for In­fra­struc­ture last year to grant plan­ning per­mis­sion to a con­tro­ver­sial waste in­cin­er­a­tor by arc21 in Mal­lusk.

In to­day’s state­ment, the busi­ness groups say they have en­gaged with Ex­ec­u­tive de­part­ments for more than a year to re­quest pol­icy di­rec­tion and help them make de­ci­sions.

But they say that the ju­di­cial re­view de­ci­sion to over­turn arc21’s plan­ning per­mis­sion has now called into ques­tion the abil­ity of civil ser­vants to make de­ci­sions.

And in to­day’s Busi­ness Tele- graph, econ­o­mist John Simp­son writes that the ju­di­cial re­view de­ci­sion over the in­cin­er­a­tor threat­ens “paral­y­sis” in de­ci­sion mak­ing here.

Adrian Do­ran, chair­man of the CBI NI In­fra­struc­ture Fo­rum, said: “The busi­ness com­mu­nity’s over­whelm­ing pri­or­ity re­mains the re­turn of an in­clu­sive de­volved govern­ment. But with­out a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion in sight, it is only right that we re­quest that the Sec­re­tary of State ex­plore all al­ter­na­tive op­tions.

“Pol­icy paral­y­sis is not ac­cept­able, and we must all look for ways to re­move the cur­rent hand­brake on lo­cal eco­nomic and so­cial progress. Both busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als de­serve to have ac­cess to the ba­sic ev­ery­day gov­er­nance that is of­fered in all other re­gions.

“The in­cin­er­a­tor de­ci­sion ex­posed the fragility of cur­rent de­ci­sion mak­ing ar­range­ments in the ab­sence of min­is­ters.

“The longer this un­cer­tainty pre­sides over lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture de­ci­sions, the greater the risk to jobs and in­vest­ment. North­ern Ire­land can­not be left in a de­ci­sion-mak­ing limbo in­def­i­nitely.”

Ann Mcgre­gor, chief ex­ec­u­tive of NI Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, added: “Our cred­i­bil­ity as a place in which to do busi­ness is suf­fer­ing in­tol­er­a­bly be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal im­passe.

“We need the re­turn of a func­tion­ing lo­cal ex­ec­u­tive and a min­is­te­rial team fo­cused on help­ing the North­ern Ire­land econ­omy to flour­ish.”

No res­o­lu­tion is in sight at Stor­mont

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