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.

He said that it had been clear for some time that the growth in public spending at the UK level under the 2007 CSR would be less than previously.

This means the Executive will need to make "difficult and challenging decisions" to ensure best use of available resources.

In the 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) announced on Tuesday, finance for the Northern Ireland Executive is set to grow by an average annual rate of 1.7% in real terms over the next three years.

Spending in 2007-08 will be increased by £0.4 billion in 2008-09, £0.7 billion in 2009-10 and £1.2 billion in 2010-2011, a total increase of £2.3 billion over the three years.

But speaking on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive, Mr Robinson said the growth in public spending would be less than before.

He said: "The announcement is extremely important for the people of Northern Ireland as the additional resources from the UK-wide Comprehensive Spending Review will form a major part of the available funding over the period 2008-09 to 2010-11 for allocation to departments as part of the local budget process."

He said key challenges include the substantial increase in the costs of providing water and sewerage services as well as the need to address the historic underinvestment in infrastructure.

The minister said he would now move to finalise the local draft budget process and related that he had already held "an open and fruitful discussion" with his ministerial colleagues about the expected public expenditure.

He said he would aim to bring out a draft Northern Ireland budget for public consultation in November and December.


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