Finance Minister Arlene Foster has delivered on the commitment in the ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement for a balanced budget for next year.
The Executive has agreed a one-year budget based on the nine new Departments, which protects health and social care as well as providing an additional £40million for education and £5million for skills.
The Minister said: “The outcome of the Spending Review and the severely constrained timescale to deliver next year’s spending plans alongside structural changes from 12 to 9 Departments means I have had to construct a 2016/17 budget position in very challenging circumstances.
“We have delivered on the ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement and the Executive has demonstrated its commitment to put our finances on a sustainable footing.
“The one-year budget will give new departments and new Ministers a stable, balanced platform to determine priorities and funding allocations post the May election for a multi-year budget from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
“It is recognised that the migration from the current twelve department structure to the new nine future departments is not without its own difficulties. For that reason the Executive has agreed that there will be additional budget flexibilities available to new Ministers in the first Monitoring round of the year.”
Turning to Departmental allocations Arlene Foster said: “The budget addresses significant pressures facing our public services and protects the health and social care budget, providing an extra £133million for key services.
“£40million has been allocated to schools and £5million for skills. This includes £30million of funding from the money which was set aside to mitigate tax credit changes.
“Legal aid pressures in the Department of Justice have also been addressed with an additional allocation of £15million alongside a further £20million for roads structural maintenance. In addition to this resource funding there is also an additional £46million of capital for roads structural maintenance.
“Protecting health and social care and some other key services puts greater pressure on other Departments and most will face reductions in their budget allocation. However the maximum reduction faced by any Ministerial department is limited to only 5.7 per cent.
“We will also continue to drive public sector reform and the NICS Voluntary Exit Scheme will alleviate payroll pressures to help Departments live within their budgets. In addition, the 2016-17 budget allocates a £117.6million for further voluntary exit schemes across the public sector.
“For the sixth year in a row the Executive has agreed to a real terms regional rate freeze for 2016/17. This is evidence of the Executive’s commitment to alleviating some of the financial burden for ratepayers in Northern Ireland and sees us maintain the lowest household taxes in the UK.
“Major flagship capital projects have been given the green light with funding beyond this one-year budget. This will deliver key infrastructure projects such as the A6 road and the New Buildings to Strabane section of the A5 road, Belfast Rapid Transit as well as the Mother and Children’s Hospital.”
Arlene Foster concluded: “We now have created a stable, balanced platform for the new incoming Executive to take its time in constructing a multi-year budget. Although the outcome may prove challenging, the position is significantly better than previously anticipated.”
Notes to editors:
- The statement can be found here on the DFP website.
- Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance and Personnel Communications Office on Tel: 028 9081 6724 or Tel: 028 9081 6895. Out of Office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.
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