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A NEW NORTHERN Ireland budget will include £410 million following the financial package negotiated by the DUP in return for backing the Conservative Party in Westminster.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, has said the allocation from the confidence and supply funding includes £80 million in support of immediate health and education pressure.
The budget also includes £30 million to support programmes to address issues of mental health and severe deprivation.
Another £100 million is being put towards ongoing work to transform the health service.
Capital spending for key infrastructure projects is receiving £200 million.
In a written statement published today, Bradley said that the UK government has worked tirelessly to facilitate the restoration of the devolved Northern Ireland government.
“It had been my firm hope that a new Executive would be in place to set a budget. That will now not be possible in time for plans to be put in place for the forthcoming financial year,” Bradley said.
“Yet there are acute pressures across public services to be addressed in 2018/19. and clarity is required now to enable planning to proceed for the year ahead. It is now imperative, therefore, that the UK government provides clarity and certainty around Northern Ireland finances for 2018/19.”
Bradley said that domestic rates will rise by 4.55%, saying it is a “necessary and important step to continue to support public services”.
The non-domestic rates will rise at 1.5%, in line with inflation.
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said that a British-Irish intergovernmental conference rather than stop-gap measures is required to make way a restoration of power-sharing.
“This is a disappointing budget which doesn’t provide the resources needed for the public services our people need and deserve,” O’Neill said.
“It’s not good for householders, for victims, for health, for our economy, our colleges or the homeless,” she said.
The two governments must act on their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement which provides for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference.
In contrast, DUP leader Arlene Foster has welcomed the Secretary of State’s budget announcements.
“Cynics doubted the C&S money would ever be delivered but today it has helped achieve an improved budget compared to the one that many feared. Our efforts will help alleviate pressures in health and education, tackle issues with mental health and deprivation, transform our NHS and build new infrastructure,” Foster said.
Despite the approval of the DUP, the party’s east Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said that they would prefer to see the budget for Northern Ireland being laid before the Assembly by a locally elected and locally accountable finance minister.