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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 16:25 GMT
Housing and health cash bonanza
Peter Robinson

More than 200m has been allocated to build more than 5,000 affordable homes in Northern Ireland.

The announcement was made by Finance Minister Peter Robinson as he delivered his first budget to the assembly.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has been given more flexibility over his budget, including 10m a year for mental health provision.

Some 40m will go to the Department of Employment and Learning, with 50m on innovation across other departments.

Mr Robinson said the budget was proof that devolution is working.

"It is almost 40 years since a finance minister elected by the people of Northern Ireland presented a budget in a stable political environment," he said.

205m for social and affordable housing over three years
90m overall for innovation projects, including 60m euros from Irish government
40m for roads schemes
Extra 50m distributed among departments over three years
Health to get extra 10m per year
Children and young people to get a total of 13m
Arts to get extra 4m for two years
Victims funding to rise 6m over three years

He said the average Northern Ireland household would be better off by 1,000 per year.

The final budget came after significant tensions in the executive over funding.

The 200m going to Ms Ritchie's department will meet housing targets over the next three years.

This will see 1,500 new units in year one, following by 1,750 in year two and a further 2,000 units in year three.

'Good deal'

Ms Ritchie said she was pleased with the money being allocated for social housing.

"In respect of social and affordable housing, I think this has been a good day for the people of Northern Ireland and a good budget deal for housing," she said.

Mr McGimpsey's budget means he can keep efficiency savings and is guaranteed 20m a year from unspent executive funds, money that becomes available in each spending year.

After 12 weeks of civil war in the Stormont executive, Peter Robinson's final budget felt like the start of a January truce
Mark Devenport
BBC NI political editor

This would total 60m over three years.

He has also received 30m for mental health, plus 14m for the fire service.

Mr McGimpsey said he had worked hard to achieve "real gains for health in Northern Ireland".

"It is a good budget for health and within that, it is a good budget for mental health and learning disability," he said.


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The cash for the Department of Employment and Learning will partly fund extra PhD students, as well as other research.

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin said he was pleased that equality impact assessments would be used to determine future funding and policy decisions.

"This approach can have a significant impact on eliminating inequalities and tackling poverty and disadvantage," said the assembly's finance committee chairman.

Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party said the budget retained three structural weaknesses, including "no attempt to tackle the costs of a divided society".

"It is more of a recipe for creating a low-tax society rather than growing the economy (and) it does not assist with creating better and sustainable public services," he said.

The budget will now pass through the assembly before becoming law.

"In reality there's little room for manoeuvre"


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