Kicking the [financial] can down the road, again.

According to the BBC’s Mark Devenport,

The Treasury has been asked to supply Stormont with a one-off loan of between £100m and £150m to ease its budgetary crisis, the BBC understands.

According to the reports, the proposal was discussed with the UK Treasury by the NI First Minister, the DUP leader Peter Robinson, and the NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Simon Hamilton.  Whether that occurred before, or after, yesterday’s ‘special’ meeting of the NI Executive isn’t entirely clear.  From the UTV report

The development comes after it emerged that Mr Hamilton and First Minister Peter Robinson were in conversation with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne over a proposal.

Executive ministers are to meet at Stormont later on Thursday.

Political commentator Eamonn Mallie told the Frank Mitchell Phone-In: “As I understand it, particularly Simon Hamilton has been in discussion with the Treasury.

“It’s reported his party is recommending that the Treasury should give a loan of £100m to £150m, which would be repayable in April in the new financial year.”

But, given the track record of DUP ministers taking legal action against NI Executive colleagues for not taking proposals through the Executive, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

As today’s BBC report notes

The loan would enable ministers to reach agreement on immediate financial allocations.

It is believed the proposal will be discussed by ministers later.

The loan would also ensure Stormont did not breach its spending limits by more than £200m at the end of the financial year.

However, it would increase the amount Stormont would owe the Treasury next year.

It is not clear if Sinn Féin approves the proposal, or what conditions the Treasury might attach to a loan. [added emphasis]

Indeed.  Although it’s also worth pointing out that the current loan facility from the UK Treasury, the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative, was temporarily extended by £100million over two years under the Building a Prosperous and United Community agreement in June 2013, and subsequently re-profiled and extended by a further £30million in July of this year.

And the previous use of that emergency overdraft UK Treasury loan facility has not been without criticism.  Previously mentioned here in July this year

As the NI Audit Office reported in January this year – The Future Impact of Borrowing and Public Finance Commitments

According to today’s report, the Executive has, up to March 2013, accessed £2 billion of borrowing through the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative. Annual repayments have doubled in the past five years to £100 million in 2013 and are expected to peak at £140 million a year from 2016 to 2021. While borrowing is intended for financing Northern Ireland’s substantial infrastructure investment programme, recent expenditure funded from Reinvestment and Reform Initiative borrowings highlights the need for more clarity and transparency. [added emphasis]

[Don’t mention the shareholders in the Presbyterian Mutual Society… – Ed]  Indeed.

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