North gets extra £322m in emergency budget
‘Brokenshire budget’ to boost public spending over 2017-2018 to more than £10.6bn
Northern Secretary James Brokenshire has approved a £10.6 billion budget to fund services while Stormont is suspended. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Northern Ireland will get an additional £322 million as part of a “Brokenshire budget” that will boost total public spending over 2017-2018 to more than £10.6 billion, according to new estimates.
Northern Secretary James Brokenshire has drawn up an emergency budget for the North to “allow the Northern Ireland Civil Service to keep things ticking over” in the absence of a powersharing government.
Senior civil servants have been in charge of public spending in the North since the Stormont executive collapsed back in January without an agreed budget in place for 2017-2018.
The civil servants had informed Mr Brokenshire that Northern Ireland needed a budget in place by November or they would be in a position where there would effectively be no money available to fund essential services that were already under pressure in the North.
The so called Brokenshire budget has mainly been drawn up based on previous spending allocations and current projections.
Mr Brokenshire has stressed that his Northern Ireland Budget Bill, which is currently going through the House of Commons to become law, does not signify a return to direct rule from London because he says it does not stipulate any UK government spending priorities.
Instead, his budget simply enables the North’s Civil Service to continue to fund essential services like health and education.
On Monday, the Department of Finance in the North published details of estimates that each Northern Ireland department would be allocated.
The North’s overall health budget will receive a 5.4 per cent increase, which will bring total spending to more than £5.4 billion.
Education will see its budget increase to more than £1.9 billion, while the Department of Finance will get a near 11 per cent rise in its spending power to take it up to more than £155 million.
The North’s Department of Infrastructure will also get a modest increase to increase to just over £375 million but others departments will suffer major cuts to their overall spending plans. The Departments of Agriculture, Justice and the Economy will be the hardest hit.