Additional Moneys

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:30, 14 October 2002

2. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline his plans for raising additional moneys to meet increased commitments; and to make a statement.

(AQO 341/02)

Photo of Sean Farren Sean Farren Social Democratic and Labour Party

The draft Budget presented to the Assembly on 24 September is predicated on the use of the reinvestment and reform initiative and on the use of public-private partnerships to address infrastructure deficits. Beyond the immediate borrowing facility of £125 million for 2003-04, details of which have already been announced, the extent to which we can borrow is limited by our ability to raise additional revenue to service the debt. Any decisions will be taken with due regard to the recent consultation exercise on the review of rating policy.

As I have previously made clear, there will be no increase in regional rate beyond the pattern of recent years unless and until a fairer system is in place. In the meantime, I have proposed to the Executive a package of allocations from the September monitoring round for 2002-03 amounting to £144 million and, in conjunction with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, a further package of £19 million this year and £47 million in 2003-04 from two of the Executive programme funds. As it will not be possible to announce these in the usual way — by a statement to the Assembly after Executive agreement — I have made details of the proposals available to Members through a press release.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer and for his good news on a day when there is not a lot to be happy about. Will the Minister assure the House that, before he goes home tonight, he will have written all the cheques he is entitled to in favour of the socially disadvantaged groups? In doing so, will he remember to take account of potential efficiency savings as well as the sale of Government-held assets in constructing his Budget proposals? We do not want to leave anything untouched.

Photo of Sean Farren Sean Farren Social Democratic and Labour Party

I must be careful when responding to the Chairperson of the Audit Committee and member of the Public Accounts Committee in this regard. Both of us will cease to hold our respective offices from midnight this evening, but when Members read the press releases on September monitoring and further allocations from two of the Executive programme funds, they will see that the Executive have done all in their power to redirect and add to the scope for investment in such vital services as health, education, roads infrastructure, transport facilities and the Water Service. It is a legacy of which we can be proud.

The responsibility for the actual spend will not be with the Minister of Finance and Personnel but with the Ministers who have responsibility for the various Departments. My Budget proposals contained a clear invitation and a requirement on all Departments to submit a report by the end of October on how they will address efficiency and asset management issues — and I trust that the present hiatus will not be a cause for any delay in that regard. When the Assembly returns — as I hope it will in the not too distant future — it is hoped that Members will find that considerable progress has been made with respect to what was proposed in the reforming and, as I said at the time, radical Budget.