Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Sammy Wilson details 367m budget cuts from April

Finance minister Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson has outlines how 367m of savings have to be made

Finance minister Sammy Wilson has been outlining how £367m is going to be cut from the NI budget next year.

Mr Wilson said water charges would continue to be deferred in 2010-11, at a cost of £213m to the executive.

The Department of Health faces cuts of £113.5m and the Department of Regional Development faces cuts of £80.5m.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he had not agreed the cuts and would resist them "very strongly".

His department's total budget for 2010-11 will be £4,495.1m, if Mr Wilson's measures are approved.

"I'm not satisfied, I have not agreed that. I made it quite clear to Sammy Wilson and the Executive colleagues I do not agree that," said Mr McGimpsey.

BUDGET CUTS BY DEPARTMENT
Agriculture: £9.7m
Culture: £25.9m
Education: £73.7m
Employment & learning: £28.7m
Enterprise: £11.2m
Environment: £4.2m
Finance: £6.2m
Health: £113.5m
Regional development: £80.5m
Social development: £30.3m
OFMDFM: £9.3m

"Whilst you can bandy figures around, weasel words over percentages, the fact is health's the big loser over this, losing over £100m in monies from a budget that is already seriously under-resourced."

However, Mr Wilson said: "There are limited options available to the Executive in terms of the scope to raise this amount of funding.

"Therefore, the only realistic option was to examine the existing spending plans of local departments.

"The Executive was critically aware of the need to protect priority frontline services where possible.

"Therefore, a targeted approach has been adopted with, for example, the lowest level of savings in percentage terms for current spending proposed for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety."

The Executive has wasted almost two years during which it could have devised a system for incorporating the costs of water into the regional rates payments
Brian Campfield
Nipsa

The plans now go out to consultation with the Assembly and need to be agreed by the start of the new financial year "to minimise the potential disruption to public services", Mr Wilson added.

The Executive has proposed £26m go to an Invest to Save Fund to help departments with the upfront costs required to make savings.

Public sector trade union Nipsa spokesman Brian Campfield said they would resist the "cutbacks", which would "affect many important services".

"The finance minister's attempt to attribute the £367m shortfall in public funds mainly to the non-introduction of water charges conceals the fact that the Executive has wasted almost two years during which it could have devised a system for incorporating the costs of water into the regional rates payments," he said.

"Unfortunately, the Executive took no action to progress an alternative to water charges which would have been fair and acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Campfield said the Executive could avoid the cuts "by lifting the freeze on the regional rate as well as the unacceptable cap on the maximum amount on which rates can be raised".

"The cap on rates creates a situation whereby those in our society, who are rich, especially in assets, are making proportionately less of a contribution to public finances than those who are less well off," he added.



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