Northern Ireland Budget 2018-2019

09 March 2018 - by Denise McAnena

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP has laid a Written Ministerial Statement on Northern Ireland Finances at Westminster as the details of the Budget for 2018-2019 are published.

It contains £410m in financial support arising from the 'confidence and supply' agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP.

The Written Ministerial Statement is available here.

Budget details are available here.

SDLP Finance spokesperson Claire Hanna MLA responded:

"This budget presents more questions than answers. Primarily, how can it be acceptable that the DUP Confidence and Supply is allocated to departments without any political accountability?

This budget puts the DUP in the driving seat. The failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin to restore power-sharing has given London and the DUP a free hand in our affairs. We have reached a very difficult and distressing point. The London Government should not underplay the seriousness of the situation our politics finds itself in."

Meanwhile, the DUP's Sammy Wilson MP said:

"The Democratic Unionist Party would far prefer to see a Budget for Northern Ireland being laid before the Assembly by a locally elected and locally accountable Finance Minister. The last Sinn Féin Finance Minister failed to bring forward a budget before his party collapsed the Executive. For thirteen months Sinn Féin has blocked attempts to reestablish a local Executive. Their elevation of narrow political interest over the real needs of the people have made it necessary for the Secretary of State to step in and deliver this Budget.

UUP leader Robin Swann MLA also issued a statement following the publication of the Budget:

"Whilst this Budget will at least provide some much needed certainty, local households will see a major impact as a consequence of it. The decision to raise the Regional Rate by 4.5% will see household bills rise almost three times more than the last increase. This 2018/19 Budget is the one in which Corporation Tax was meant to have been lowered, instead it will be remembered for its inflation-busting rates hike.

"Whilst the £100m investment for health transformation may sound reassuring I fear it’s come too late, and even if it hasn’t, in the absence of a local Minister how are decisions even going to be taken?"
"The unusual approval by the UK Government to convert capital spending to resource in a desperate move to balance funds reminds me of the spectacle of a few years ago when Northern Ireland had to lower itself to a Wonga style loan simply to get through the year."

Former Sinn Féin Minister for Finance Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA described the budget as disappointing:

Just two departments get increases but these are not enough to meet the demand — the health department alone needs a six per cent increase just to stand still. This budget comes nowhere near meeting that need. The much-heralded ‘additional’ DUP money is not additional at all but is being used to plug gaps due to continuing cuts to our budgets by the British Government – with, of course, the full agreement of the DUP.”

The Alliance Party's deputy leader, Stephen Farry MLA, said:

"This is at best a caretaker approach and Northern Ireland is undoubtedly suffering from the absence of political agreement and clear leadership. All this budget statement does is to allocate money to the various Departments and related bodies. In the absence of Ministers, it falls to civil servants to make the internal decisions on how money will be spent. Northern Ireland cannot afford to tread water for a further financial year.