Construction industry comments on 2018-20 Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook

Commenting after today’s statement by the Department of Finance on the 2018-20 Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook, Construction Employers Federation Managing Director John Armstrong said...

“The statement today is welcome in that it charts a very clear budgetary path for the next three financial years in respect of how Northern Ireland’s capital budget could be spent. It is vital that this kind of budgetary planning takes place, both for industry and Government, especially as the last twelve months have led to complete uncertainty as to the spending profile in future years. 

“The statement does, however, very clearly detail the challenges presented as a result of the huge investment going into the Flagship projects over the next 3 years even though the overall capital budget is going up. These are challenges that the industry has consistently said need to be reassessed, while we also note that the capital budget is entirely predicated on the capital money from the Conservative-DUP deal flowing as early as April. Any delay in this, accompanied by the expenditure on the Flagship projects, could present huge challenges for the bulk of our industry given its predominately small and medium sized contractor base. 

“As we have said today in evidence we have submitted to a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee inquiry, neither the construction industry, nor the Government Clients, can afford to be in a position in March, never mind once the financial year has actually started, of still not having a legislatively approved budget. We are aware that Clients have now been asked to put forward how they would prioritise capital investment in 2018/19. So that this process can be done as efficiently and effectively as possible, it is vital that the 2018/19 budget be approved in January or, at worst, by mid-February and that, in the context of the ongoing impasse at Stormont, that Westminster must assume this responsibility will fall on them.

“We have long said that the Secretary of State must now bring clarity. Decisions need to be prioritised and taken and a clear and accountable way of government taking these decisions needs to be established. Our preference is, of course, the establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive. However, failing that, we need to move to a position where the functions of government can be exercised in a way that any other part of these islands would expect as a matter of course.