Northern Ireland

Spend it Like Stormont: How would you spend the budget?

Presenters of Spend it Like Stormont Image copyright Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Image caption Presenters of Spend it Like Stormont

What would you do if you were in charge of the Stormont budget?

What would you spend the money on?

Where would you cut back?

Thanks to a new BBC NI documentary, made by Below the Radar, and online game, you can give it a try.

Most of us have no idea how much it costs to run our public services, but we all know they are under pressure.

Spend It Like Stormont breaks down the cost of each department, how much we raise in taxes, and how much we receive from the government every year.

Along with William Crawley and economist Neil Gibson, we speak to those in charge in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and ask them why those services are under such strain.

Stormont has £14,000 to spend per head, per year in Northern Ireland.

That is for things like the health service, roads, pensions and welfare payments.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Players make decisions on spending and saving and they are also given the consequences of their decisions

So how would you balance the books?

Would you stop paying MLAs? Would you end free travel for the over 60s? Would you be tempted to scrap student tuition fees?

Players make decisions on spending and saving and they are also given the consequences of their decisions.

Health is our biggest spender, taking up almost half of the entire budget. That's £5.6bn every year, but it's also our biggest employer, providing jobs for about 66,000 people.

Report after report has suggested changes to how we spend that money.

'Pack of paracetamol'

We have 35 hospitals and 11 accident and emergency departments. Would you feel comfortable changing how those services are delivered?

What about prescription charges? They're currently free in Northern Ireland, but the cost of medicine in 2016 was £440m.

You can buy a packet of paracetamol for about 50p but if you get it with a prescription, it costs the health service £35.

Education is our second-biggest spending department.

It costs £2bn a year to run, the vast majority of which is spent on schools.

There are thousands of empty seats in classrooms around the country but the decision to close schools, particularly in rural areas, is extremely contentious.

With the help of Ulster University's economic policy centre, we have devised a few scenarios on how you might save or spend some money.

Click here to play and see where you would spend and where you would save.

Spend it Like Stormont is on BBC1 Northern Ireland on Wednesday 12 June at 21:00 BST.

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