The Department of Finance has today published a briefing paper on the broad strategic issues that will help inform decisions on a Budget for 2018-19 and 2019-2020 (and 2020/21 for Capital).
Departments are required to live within their budget every year. To do so for 2018-19 and onwards, decisions are becoming pressing. It is our assessment that, for an effective budget to be set and delivered by a new Executive, it should be agreed early in February 2018. The decisions in a Budget have the potential to impact on the delivery of public services and on the lives of every citizen.
Department of Finance Permanent Secretary Hugh Widdis said: “This is an unusual step which is being taken with great reluctance. In normal circumstances, the Minister of Finance would have presented a Draft Budget to the Executive for agreement and later approval, after debate, by the Assembly.
“This year, in the absence of Ministers, the Department of Finance is now taking the unusual step of publishing information about the broad choices available for balancing the Budget to help inform decisions to be taken by an incoming Executive.”
The Briefing on the Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook 2018-20 sets the context for this and illustrates the options that may need to be considered by Ministers through the use of three possible scenarios. These are purely illustrative. This process reflects the new approach for the Programme for Government, focussing on outcomes.
These are not proposed budget settlements and no decisions have yet been taken.
Mr Widdis said: “Budgets for 2018/19 and 2019/20 will need to take account of constrained financial resources and growing departmental pressures.
“The briefing paper sets out the assessment of the resources available and approaches that would enable Departments to live within them.
“No decisions have been taken. It will be for Ministers to decide on the way forward, which will be informed by this process.”
Given the need to have an agreed Budget by the beginning of February, any feedback should be provided by 26 January 2018.
The Briefing on the Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook 2018-20 is available at: https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/publications/briefing-northern-ireland-budgetary-outlook-2018-20-0
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