There is to be a clamp down on the growing cost of bureaucracy in Northern Ireland according to finance minister Ian Pearson.
Ian Pearson said effective administration was the priority
Mr Pearson was speaking on Tuesday as the government confirmed that local departments will have more than £7bn to spend next year.
Included in the budget will be a 40% increase in building programmes with the bulk of the money targeted at areas such as water, sewage, hospitals and schools.
Mr Pearson said the priority would remain on improving and reforming public services and infrastructure.
"Total spending on services will rise by nearly 14% over the next two years, with an increase of 7.9% next year and 5.3% in 2005-06, bringing the total to over £8 billion," he said.
The minister added that the decision to reduce the amount spent on bureaucracy was a direct result of the response to his draft proposals which were published in October.
"One theme which emerged strongly from the consultation, and in my discussions with the political parties, was concerns about the size of bureaucracy in Northern Ireland and the need to deliver services more efficiently," he said.
"Administration costs must be kept under close scrutiny and public sector managers must continuously challenge their systems and structures to keep these costs to the minimum necessary.
"Doing so means more resources can be made available to the front line services where the general public expects to see continuous improvement in the service they receive."
Ulster Unionist assembly spokesman on finance and personnel Leslie Cree welcomed the minister's plans to reduce bureaucratic spending.
'Decades of under investment'
"The commitment to reduce administration costs across the departments, promote greater efficiency and cut down on bureaucracy is something that we can wholeheartedly welcome," he said.
However, Sinn Féin's assembly finance spokesperson, Francie Molloy said that despite increases in spending, the core issue of overall expenditure "had not been addressed".
"These increases do not take account of the levels of need that exist here, they do nothing to address the legacy of decades of under investment," he said.
Democratic Unionist assembly member George Dawson said cuts on administration should tackle waste and not hit frontline services.
"Key public services such as health, education and transport have suffered years of under funding and any injection of cash is much needed," he said.
However, former SDLP Finance Minister Sean Farren said a rate increase of 8.8% was unacceptable without an overhaul of the rating system.
"Northern Ireland needs a local budget to address local needs," he added.