Northern Ireland Executive agrees its 2016/17 Budget

Yesterday saw the Northern Ireland Executive agree a one year budget for 2016-17.

The full statement made by Finance Minister Arlene Foster, on which there will be a full Assembly debate in January, is availablehere.

Although each of the nine new Executive departments has yet to agree the detailed breakdown of its expenditure, some of the key headlines from the statement include:

  • Agreement on a number of flagship projects which will be delivered over the coming five financial years as follows:

  • According to the document, Phase 1 of the A5 scheme (which will also receive £75m over three years from the Irish Government) will ‘commence as soon as the planning issues have been resolved’;
  • The A6 funding is expected to be directed towards, initially, the Randalstown to Castledawson dualling, followed by the Dungiven bypass;
  • £20m of Resource expenditure and £46m of Capital expenditure in 2016/17 for roads structural maintenance;
  • £25m set aside for the public sector voluntary exit scheme in 2016/17 is now not expected to be used. This will be instead used to fund capital projects. A further £57m from the voluntary exit scheme will be reallocated in June’s monitoring round;
  • £50m of capital funding for shared education and shared housing projects will be retained by the Department of Finance until appropriate schemes have been identified;
  • £57.8m of Financial Transactions Capital has now been allocated - £11m to the Department from Communities, £30.8m to the Department for Economy being the main allocations. The remaining balance, £55.8m, will be rolled into the Northern Ireland Investment Fund;
  • In respect of the Investment Fund, a feasibility study has now concluded and the next steps include developing detailed policy proposals for the Fund structure, the Fund Investment Strategy and Fund governance arrangements. The intention is that the Fund will provide loan, equity or mezzanine finance to viable local private sector projects that cannot obtain funding from commercial sources. The Fund will focus on projects in four sectors: urban regeneration including Grade A office space; energy and energy efficiency; telecoms and; social housing. A Fund manager procurement process will commence in early 2016/17, with this expected to take 6 months. The Fund should be operational shortly thereafter. Although its funding pot is expected to grow, some £100m of Financial Transactions Capital has already been earmarked for the Fund - £55.8m in 2016/17 and the balance in later years.

At the start of the week, we engaged with officials from the Department of Finance and Personnel in respect of the budget proposals. While we were able to welcome much of what was indicated by officials, included the Executive’s renewed commitment to funding the A5 and A6/M2 road schemes, the Integrated Transport Hub in Belfast and the Northern Ireland Community Safety College in the coming years, we expressed concern that the investment critical York Street Interchange scheme appeared to have been downgraded in priority. We also took the opportunity to detail the need for more clarity over next year’s road maintenance budget and the need for this to be set on a multi-year format.

As a follow up to the meeting, we have since written to all Executive Ministers expressing the industry’s strong support for taking York Street forward as well as calling for a renewed commitment by the Executive to the delivery of the new DARD Headquarters at Ballykelly.

For further information please contact David Fry on 028 9087 7143 or davidf@cefni.co.uk.