Northern Ireland

Education loses £67m in draft budget plan

Details have emerged on which government departments have been hardest hit in the draft budget for Northern Ireland.

In the budget announced by NI Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, education will lose £67m, regional development £63m and justice £48m.

There will be some extra money for job creation and to help social need.

The health budget will increase by £326m, but there will be cuts in social services.

Mr Wilson said there were no plans for water charges over the next four years.

He also confirmed in the draft budget that the regional rate, the portion of rates collected by Stormont, will increase by inflation in the same period.

There will be a 15p plastic bag levy while 12,000 civil servants face a two-year pay freeze.

The eight-page document sets out the Executive's spending plans for the next four years.

The freeze on the regional rate will now be lifted to allow it to increase by the rate of inflation.

Housing associations will be asked to contribute £80m of their assets over the next four years and Belfast Harbour Commission will face a multi-million pound levy.

Among the infrastructure projects which the minister said would go ahead are:

  • The new police and fire training centre
  • a radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital
  • Sports stadia projects
  • Upgrades to the water and sewerage network

The draft budget was completed on Tuesday night following hours of intensive discussion between ministers.

Spending Review

Mr Wilson told MLAs that setting a budget was a "litmus test" for the executive which he believed it was going to pass.

The budget has been described as "very disappointing" by the main public sector union Nipsa.

"Despite how the finance minister has tried to play it up, what this means for thousands of public sector servants is the prospect of losing their job or at the very best, having their pay cut," said Bumper Graham, the union's assistant general-secretary.

Northern Ireland is the last devolved region to formally agree a budget. The executive has to find cumulative savings of £4bn over four years following the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review.

BBC NI business correspondent Kevin Magee said that the majority of the savings would come from cuts to government departments, other than health, which would see a marginal increase in its budget.

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