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14. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel, following the Chancellor’s Budget announcement of £14 billion in efficiency savings, when he will bring proposals before the Executive to address the cuts to the block grant from 2011-12. (AQO 2884/09)
I am really surprised to have been called. I hope that the Minister has an answer to question 14.
I do not know who is more surprised by the fact that we got as far as question 14. I am glad to say that I have an answer.
The most recent UK comprehensive spending review of 2007 determined the funding that was available to the Northern Ireland Executive from the Treasury for 2008-09 to 2010-11. No block grant allocation is in place for 2011-12 and beyond, because the next UK-wide spending review has not happened yet. That is expected to happen at some point next year. Therefore, it is impossible to speculate with any degree of certainty about overall levels of funding from the Treasury.
I am desperately surprised and disappointed that the Minister will not speculate at some length. The cuts that may be imposed on our Budget as a result of efficiency savings would result in difficulties. Will the Minister, in discussions with his colleagues, take into account the dire straits in my constituency of East Antrim, where public-sector jobs have already been decimated to a leave a very low base? When efficiency cuts are mooted, they tend to result in job losses in the public sector in particular.
I take on board the Member’s comments about his constituency, and I understand where he is coming from on that issue. I gently suggest to the Member that, given the likely composition of the next Government, he and his party colleagues will have considerably greater influence over the level of the potential efficiency savings beyond the current Budget cycle, which ends in the next financial year, than anyone in the Executive outside of the Ulster Unionist Party. I have no doubt that we can all look forward to no cuts at all. The Member will be able to say that his party delivered no cuts and that there will be no problems for East Antrim.