29/10/2004

BELB chief executive suspended over budget debacle

The chief executive of the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) has been suspended following an overspend of nearly £5 million by the region's education department.

Following a four-hour meeting of the Board it was agreed that David Cargo should be suspended, however, the suspension was described as a "precautionary" measure which was not a "presumption of any guilt".

In a statement, released on Friday, the BELB said that the Board had become aware of the overspend in June and that it had been working since then to clarify the position and discuss a course of action to address the problem.

An "external and independent" review of the board's financial deficit has since been launched, the statement added.

Earlier in the week, Education Minister Barry Gardiner demanded swift action over the escalating crisis in funding within both the Belfast and South Eastern Education Boards after it emerged that the two boards had a combined overspend of around £11 million.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Gardiner told the chief executives of both boards that they bore personal responsibility for monitoring spending.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board, which currently has a deficit of £5.7 million, is to meet in the next two weeks to discuss its financial fall-out.

The Board has said that it could only save about £1 million without damaging the welfare of pupils, but it is understood to have now come up with a further list of cost-cutting measures which would save a further £5 million.

(MB/SP)

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