Secretary of state unveils direct rule budget for Northern Ireland

Karen Bradley says £100m of the £410m budget to be spent on health transformation

 Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley. Photograph: EPA/Will Oliver

Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley. Photograph: EPA/Will Oliver

a
 

The Northern Ireland secretary of state has unveiled a new direct rule budget for Northern Ireland that will, after months of delay, give the North access to £410 million (€460 million) from the DUP’s £1 billion confidence and supply agreement deal with the Conservative Party.

A significant portion of the new funding being made available, £100 million, will be spent on “health transformation” in Northern Ireland while £80 million will be directed at “immediate health and education pressures”.

A further £30 million has been allocated to programmes that address mental health and severe deprivation.

In addition Karen Bradley outlined in a written ministerial statement, published on Thursday afternoon, that £200 million from the DUP/Tory pact would be allocated to capital spending for key infrastructure projects.

Ms Bradley said she had worked closely with the Northern Ireland Civil Service before making her budget allocations.

The budget foresees that domestic rates – property taxes based on capital values – will increase to 4.5 per cent in the North, which the secretary of state described as a “necessary and important step to continue to support public services, particularly in health and education”.

Urgent pressures

Ms Bradley said: “We must act to secure public services and enable NI departments to meet urgent pressures in health and education. That is what this budget settlement will do, by protecting and preserving public services within challenging fiscal constraints.

The North’s department of finance said the budget would provide “clarity” for departments to plan for the incoming year while ensuring frontline services are protected.

But, according to the department, while the budget will deliver extra spending power to the department of health, the pace at which cost pressures are accelerating will still mean that “difficult challenges in meeting demand remain”.

a