2024/25 NI Budget

19 February 2024 - by Matthew Jackson


The Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald MLA introduced the Budget Bill in the Assembly this afternoon.

Once passed, it will authorise departments and certain public bodies to incur expenditure and use resources for the 2024/25 financial year. It will also see the return of in-year monitoring rounds, where money can be bid for by Ministers throughout the financial year.

This will be the first Budget set locally since 2021, with subsequent budgets set in 2022 and 2023 by the Secretary of State in the absence of the institutions.

Critically, two periods of extended absence (2017-20 and 2022-24), together with the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic, have also seen NI fall out of line with the three-year spending review in Westminster which provides for multi-year budgets.

How is NI’s Budget normally set?

Starting with the Block Grant, Northern Ireland receives its allocation of money from Treasury based on a calculation known as the Barnett Consequential in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget.

The headline allocation forms the basis on which the Finance Minister then engages with other departments and Ministers to create a draft budget, before presenting it to the Executive, and then bringing the proposal to the Assembly, committees and the broader public for consultation.

Following the conclusion of this consultative process, MLAs debate the Bill and vote on it before the end of the financial year.

What is different this time?

With the Executive restored on 3 February and the financial year ending on 31 March, the Budget Bill is expected to be fast-tracked through the legislative process this week.

This will allow Ministers to address departmental pressures and projected overspends before the beginning of the 2024/25 financial year.

This year’s budget is also set against the background of a broader conversation around fiscal sustainability and the funding of public services.

Some strategic questions for Ministers and MLAs as they begin to scrutinise the Budget Bill today:

  • What are the new Executive’s priorities? How much is required to fund these?
  • How will the £3.3bn financial package be distributed? What sectors will benefit? Who will lose out?
  • Will we see an increase in the 124% fiscal floor that formed part of the financial agreement with the UK Government? (See Executive letter to the Treasury last week).
  • Will we see additional revenue raised locally? Will this be through rates, or a devolution of more fiscal powers? Or both?

 

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