Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 18:08 UK

Stormont 'to find 122m of cuts'

Alistair Darling will announce his budget on Wednesday
Alistair Darling wants savings across government

The NI Executive will have to find efficiency savings of £122m by 2011.

The move is part of the Budget unveiled by Chancellor Alastair Darling, who wants savings across all government departments.

There were fears the savings demanded from Stormont by the Treasury would be much higher - as much as £600m.

Extra short-term funding of £116m was promised as the executive makes the longer term cuts. There will also be an extra £28.7m for policing.

Following social security changes, Northern Ireland will also receive an extra £27m for measures such as winter fuel payments.

Northern Ireland may have escaped the doomsday forecasts of immediate and massive public expenditure cuts - but the dark shadow of the Chancellor's axe still hangs over Stormont
Philip McDonagh
PricewaterhouseCoopers NI

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said the Budget would bring "real and tangible benefits", with its provisions along with other measures leaving Northern Ireland "nearly £50m better off".

Finance Minister Nigel Dodds of the DUP said he was disappointed by the cuts required, but was heartened by news of the extra interim resources.

"As we move into 2009-10, the executive will need to have an even greater focus on ensuring that every pound spent on public services delivers maximum value for money so that we can continue to provide a better quality of life for all the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

'Priorities'

SDLP finance spokesman Declan O'Loan said Northern Ireland needed its own Budget, and described as "untenable" the position of Mr Dodds and his party colleague, First Minister Peter Robinson.

"The SDLP has proposed £400m of new spending. It has the support of leading economists. The recession demands change," he said.

Ulster Unionist Party deputy leader Danny Kennedy said: "At this point the finance minister will have to get his head out of the sand and the executive will have to urgently undertake a major revision of the priorities in the Programme for Government with job protection and job creation in mind."

Sinn Féin finance committee member Jennifer McCann said politicians who believed the extra money in some way compensated for the efficiency savings were "overlooking the fact that this is in effect a cut of £123m in the block grant that will not be recovered in subsequent years".

BUDGET 2009

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Alliance finance spokesman Stephen Farry said despite a short-term boost, Northern Ireland would still be facing longer term cuts.

"Cuts of this scale would take £450m out of our local budgets over the next few years. It remains to be seen if our ministers can negotiate an exemption for Northern Ireland from this," he said.

Economist Philip McDonagh of PricewaterhouseCoopers NI said: "Northern Ireland may have escaped the doomsday forecasts of immediate and massive public expenditure cuts - but the dark shadow of the Chancellor's axe still hangs over Stormont."

Bank of Ireland economist Alan Bridle said: "The executive could have a little more cash but above-inflation allocations in some departments will have to be offset by significant cuts elsewhere."

The CBI's Nigel Smyth said the impact on Northern Ireland of efficiency savings in 2010/11 remained unclear, while Joanne Stuart of the Institute of Directors NI warned that Northern Ireland would suffer disproportionately from any slowdown in public spending, given its "higher dependence on the public purse".



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