O’Toole: Pre-election monitoring round “shameless and shocking” abuse of civil service impartiality and resources

budget matthew o'toole

The Executive has engaged in a shameless and shocking politicisation of the civil service by forcing through a monitoring round just three days ahead of an election – despite clear prohibitions on use of Executive resources in the run-up to the Westminster election – the Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole has said.


The Finance Minister, along with the First Ministers, today published a monitoring round which allocated hundreds of millions in funding, despite the volume of available funding not being confirmed by the UK Treasury due to the absence of a sitting UK Parliament, and the Executive guidance that no civil service activity should “call into question their political impartiality”.

The SDLP Stormont leader said the Finance Minister’s claim that publishing a monitoring round was routine business was completely discredited by the fact that her own oral statement acknowledged that the funding allocations were made “at risk”, given the Treasury might not agree to the amounts allocated and the totals are based on her officials’ estimates.

The Opposition leader has urgently written to the Head of the Civil Service to seek clarity on what advice was offered around civil service impartiality.

Matthew O’Toole MLA said:

“Today’s action by the Finance Minister, along with the First Ministers, is a shocking and shameless abuse of civil service impartiality and a clear breach of the Executive’s own rules on the pre-election period. To announce hundreds of millions in spending allocations three days from an election, while acknowledging that the funding is at risk of not being confirmed by the Treasury, is anything but routine business as the Minister has cynically claimed. Indeed, the text of the Minster’s own statement acknowledges the significant risks associated with the announcement being made – but she and her colleagues pressed on regardless in the desperate hunt for pre-election publicity.

“Of course many of these allocations are welcome in themselves, but there would have been no issues if they had been announced on Friday morning, avoiding any suggestion of politicising the civil service. This cynical, shabby act of party politics risking undermining any shred of credibility the restored Stormont has – and offers a damning indictment of suggestions that the civil service has reformed itself to be more than a vehicle for Sinn Fein-DUP carve-ups.

“The Opposition will be urgently writing to the Head of the Civil Service to seek clarity on what advice exactly was offered, and why she has allowed the impartiality of the Northern Ireland Civil Service to so glaringly compromised.”

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