Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland budget: Only the DUP and Sinn Féin vote for deal

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Media captionMr Durkan said he refused to support the draft budget because of the cuts to his department

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed next year's draft budget but of the five parties, only the DUP and Sinn Féin voted to support the deal.

SDLP minister Mark H Durkan voted against the draft budget while ministers from Alliance and the Ulster Unionist Party abstained from the vote.

Mr Durkan said he refused to support it because of the cuts to his department.

If the draft budget had not been agreed this week, Stormont would have lost out on a £100m loan from the Treasury.

'Major concern'

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Media captionMartin McGuinness said the current budget proposal was "the best deal possible"

Justice Minister David Ford, who leads the Alliance Party, abstained along with his colleague Employment Minister Stephen Farry.

Mr Ford said: "We do recognise progress has been made but the executive is still not facing up to the difficulties".

He added that "if we thought it was the best deal for Northern Ireland, we would have voted for it".

UUP minister Danny Kennedy, who leads the Department of Regional Development, said he had "major concern" over the draft budget.

He added the parties had been given inadequate time to consider its impact.

The draft budget, outlining the Northern Ireland Executive's spending plans for the 2015/16 financial year, follows weeks of disagreement over Stormont's finances.

'Tough choices'

It will be published on Monday, when Finance Minister Simon Hamilton will brief the Northern Ireland Assembly on the document.

Writing on his Twitter account, Mr Hamilton said: "Tough choices and difficult decisions, but key services prioritised."

Earlier, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said the draft Northern Ireland budget is "the best deal possible in the circumstances".

"Anybody that tells you different is living in a fantasy world," he added.

"The reality is that our block grant has been stripped of vital resources by this British government in London each year for the last four years.

"Peter Robinson and I intend to raise this in the context of the talks that we are presently involved in."

Speaking earlier, First Minister Peter Robinson said: "Any responsible political party will recognise that we that we need to have a draft budget, it needs to go out to consultation and then the final budget will need to be agreed towards the turn of the year.

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Media captionPeter Robinson said that parties should recognise the need to agree a budget

"So, very much this is the deadline that we have if we are to give the details for the Treasury in terms of releasing the £100m loan.

"We have within the proposals how we deal with that loan in a way that will not impact our resources during the course of next year."

The block grant to Northern Ireland has been reduced by 1.6%, a cut of about £160m.

However, what have been described as "inescapable pressures" mean departments will have to find savings totalling more than £870m.

Under the draft budget proposals not all departments will be cut - health and enterprise are set to get an increased allocation.

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