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NI Executive passes first budget following restoration of government

The Northern Ireland Executive has passed its first budget following the restoration of government. Despite an extra £1b as part of the deal with the DUP, this fell far short of what was needed. None of the departments got anywhere near the funding they need just to keep services at their current levels.

MLAs in their 12 weeks of government have been quick to make statements about priorities including the issues around Lough Neagh, social care, waiting lists and childcare, with them passing numerous motions that would cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

With the reality of the budget starting to hit home, regarding Lough Neagh, on Monday 22 April 2024 the Minister stated:

“My concern with the Budget and what may be allocated to my Department is that I will potentially be doing less, rather than more. That would mean that actions on Lough Neagh would be paused, and that would be neither credible nor acceptable. We need to be able to invest in actions on Lough Neagh, and I am keen to make the point to Executive colleagues that, if we are to make Lough Neagh a priority, we need to fund it.”

As the budget stands, the reality is that we are going to see more salami slicing of services and it will most likely be our rural communities - with some 600,000 people - who will bear the brunt of these failing services.

It is clear that the Executive have nothing in place yet in terms of revenue raising. They have a list of unpopular ideas, so it seems there is a greater desire to get more money from central government.

Furthermore, there seems to be no clarity around what the Executive’s priorities actually are, and it is apparent that they have no plan whatsoever for how we will rescue our failing public services. We need only to look at the shortfall in health funding £500m to get a sense of the impact this budget will have on people’s health and on patients’ safety.

The concern for many is what are our political representatives going to do? Get on with the hard tasks to address the serious issues we are facing or descend into bickering and point-scoring or even worse, bring forward more motions and bills that we can’t fund or service to divert public attention from the real issues facing our society.

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