04/03/2011

Budget Spending Close To Agreement

There have been both winners and losers as a 'final' budget package is presented to a special session of the Stormont Assembly today.

Friday's session of the Assembly will allow Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to outline the final adjustments and answer some questions from MLAs.

The package has had both backers - who have accepted the harsh economic measures - and those who have opposed it - and even voted against the deal.

The Department for Social Development saw its funds cut by £70m as the NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey got an extra £120m over the next four years, and the Employment and Learning Minister, Danny Kennedy was given an extra £150m.

Despite the boost to Education and Health, the relevant Executive Ministers - both members of the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) - were among those who voted against the plans - following their party's policy.

The SDLP Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood also opposed the budget measures and voted against the deal in the Assembly last night.

The problem lies in the £4bn in spending cuts with a final vote next week, well ahead of the Assembly elections on 5 May.

Alliance Party Finance Spokesperson, Stephen Farry has today set out the basis of his party's support for the Executive's Budget 2011-2015 and highlighted what he said are the beginnings of a more strategic approach including addressing the costs of division.

The MLA stated: "This Budget is not an Alliance Budget. We have our own ideas, emphasis and priorities. An Alliance Budget would be more radical in terms of modernising public services and investing in the economy.

"That said, Alliance respects that we are part of a five-party Executive that has to agree a budget and Departmental allocations within a constrained and reduced set of resources.

"We respect the process that we are in while remaining committed to a programme of reform to make it work better. Failure to agree a budget would leave the Assembly and Executive in default of their legal obligations and see a bad budget imposed," he said.

"It is a shame that other parties have not been similarly constructive and it is not sustainable for both the UUP and SDLP to remain in the Executive and be bound by the collective responsibility of the Ministerial Code if their parties are intent on opposing the Budget on the floor of the Assembly," he continued.

"We now have the potential for a more strategic approach which must be followed through over the next for four years. I welcome that the Budget Review Group will now be a standing sub-committee of the Executive," he concluded.

However, the budget package will not be put to a formal vote until next week - the Assembly hopes without a repeat of frank exchanges across the Executive table at Stormont Castle on Thursday night.

The exchanges came as the DUP Finance Minister said it has identified more than £450m in extra money to distribute to the Executive departments.

Finance Minister said that new cash would be available partly because the Land and Property Service has improved its efficiency in gathering the rates.

He claimed the new cash takes the total of additional revenue generated under the budget to more than £1bn.

(BMcC/GK)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

24 July 2024
Justice Minister Announces Increase In NI Prison Staff
Justice Minister, Naomi Long, has announced an increase in the number of Prison staff in response to Northern Ireland's rising prisoner population. Since July 2021 the prison population has increased by over 500 prisoners and now stands at 1,920.
24 July 2024
DAERA Minister Meets Key Stakeholders At Lough Neagh
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Andrew Muir has met with key stakeholders on the shores of Lough Neagh following the publication of a new 37-point Report and Action Plan.
10 October 2007
Finances To Be Challenging At Assembly
Stormont Finance Minister Peter Robinson has warned that the chancellor's Pre-Budget report demonstrates slowing public finances and that difficult decisions will have to be made at the Assembly to meet substantial challenges in Ulster's public services.
15 December 2010
NI Budget Revealed At Stormont
The Stormont Assembly has heard details of an agreed budget today, after late night talks at Stormont Castle (pictured) when Ministers spent hours discussing proposals by the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
18 November 2010
'Don't Rush Budget', Says McGuinness
As it emerged that Executive Ministers are to review progress on budget discussions this afternoon - with a report from Stormont's own specialised review committee expected to be presented - First Minister Peter Robinson's insistence on the need for the Executive to agree a budget soon has come in for criticism.