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It has been predicted that Northern Ireland public spending cuts could be double what were originally expected.

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action has warned that the cuts could amount to £2bn over the next four years.

NICVA's Seamus McAleavey said officials from Executive departments had indicated to him previous estimates of the cuts were too conservative.

He said government capital expenditure is likely to fall by 40%.

This would mean less money being spent on the likes of schools, hospitals and infrastructure, he said.

"That will affect almost everyone in Northern Ireland, that will work its way through the system.

To read more http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11136234<

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Expected cuts in public expenditure could be devastating for the economy, the NI first minister has warned.

Peter Robinson said given the scale of the cuts expected to be imposed by the Treasury, ministers will inevitably have to make very difficult decisions.

He said the prospect of 20-25% cuts, amounting to about £2bn, would have a "devastating impact bogging NI down in a recession for a prolonged period".

He urged ministers not to play politics with the decisions they will face.

He said that just as it has united against the threat posed by dissident republicans, the Executive should unite to face the latest economic challenges.

The first minister urged all ministers to resist the temptation to play politics with the cuts, insisting this would be seen by the public as cynical opportunism.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-11214646<

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A new business plan is to be drawn up by Christmas in a bid to provide savings in local councils.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association has met with the environment minister, Edwin Poots, to discuss the future of councils.

A plan to create 15 new super councils next year failed to win Executive agreement.

Outgoing NILGA president, John Matthews said he wants improved efficiencies among the existing 26 councils.

"The real challenge is to do more, to do it for less money and to provide a better service," he said.

"At the same time we have to bear in mind that we're probably going to face the challenge of taking on additional responsibilities.

"But that is really the minister's part of the equation and the minister should be explaining his aspirations in that direction."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-11322513<

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The First Minister Peter Robinson has called for the number of MLAs and government departments to be reduced after the Assembly Election.

Addressing the Federation of Small Businesses on Thursday night, Mr Robinson said he wanted to see the number of MLA's cut from 108 to 75.

He also mooted a proposal to reduce governmental departments from 12 to 8.

Mr Robinson said the current situation wasted resources that could be better spent delivering front line services.

"I have asked my DUP colleagues to conduct a thorough review of all the arms length bodies for which their departments have responsibility and ask whether or not they are necessary in their present form, or at all," he said.

"This exercise is underway in Great Britain and I see no reason why we should not conduct a similar analysis.

"Since 2003 my party has advocated a reduction in the political bureaucracy at Stormont.

"The issue of the number of MLAs will likely be reduced through the reduction in the number of parliamentary constituencies to 15 through the Coalition Government's electoral reform proposals, but in addition to this we would also propose that there should only be five rather than six MLAs per constituency

The first minister thanked those at the gathering for the "contribution they made to the Northern Ireland economy".

"I know how difficult the present economic climate is but the challenges that we face today are nothing compared to the challenges that forty years of terrorism brought," he continued.

"Small businesses are the engine of the Northern Ireland economy and the role you all play is absolutely critical to our economic progress and recovery."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11496743<

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The first ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (NI) have told the coalition government that its cuts need to be scaled back because they are "too fast and too deep". The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has suggested that the government would look again at the NI economy because it was very dependent on the public sector.

Carwyn Jones (Wales), Alex Salmond (Scotland) and Peter Robinson (Northern Ireland) appeared together to make a joint statement saying that cuts should be phased in rather than taking immediate effect as the government aims to wipe out the UK's massive deficit within five years.

The statement said: "The proposals to cut public spending to such an extent run the risk of stalling any recovery. Private sector demand remains fragile and access to finance continues to be constrained. The current plans for fiscal consolidation could therefore have a significant and lasting negative impact on the economy."

However, a Treasury spokesman pointed out that the government's plans had won the backing of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the G20, the Bank of England and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He said: "The benefits of the decisive action being taken will support the whole of the UK economy including devolved countries."

Clegg told ITV: "Over time we clearly need to try and create a NI economy which is more diverse in which you have more people employed in the private sector. That's not something you can just wave a magic wand and do overnight. We're very aware of that and we're also aware that these are exactly the kind of things we need to consider when we make these decisions about how to deal with the deficit."

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=14384<

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