Northern Ireland

Warning of 18% cut in agriculture department budget

A senior civil servant at the Department of Agriculture has said that its budget could be cut by more than 18% over the next four years.

The agriculture committee at Stormont heard how the department currently gets about £250m a year.

This would fall gradually to about £210m by 2014-15.

The department official said no assumptions were being made about where cuts will be made and whether jobs will be lost.

He also revealed a savings plan, supposed to be delivered to the Department of Finance by 26 August, has not yet been submitted by the minister, Michelle Gildernew.

Meanwhile, the committee was also told that further provisions were being made for farm subsidy disallowances imposed by the European Commission.

The Executive had already been alerted to disallowances totalling £60m resulting from errors in the administration of annual subsidy payments to farmers in Northern Ireland.

The committee was told DARD now believed it was prudent to make further provisions which could push the final bill up to £100m.

The department is costing a move from its current headquarters in Dundonald House to a new site at £13m.