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SmartPass: Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin 2:45 pm, 13th October 2015

8. Ms Maeve McLaughlin asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel whether future funding for the SmartPass scheme will be ring-fenced. (AQO 8874/11-16)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

The Executive have not made any decisions regarding Budgets beyond the 2015-16 financial year. The Department for Regional Development has responsibility for the SmartPass scheme, and any issue regarding its future operation should be taken up with DRD.

Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat. I thank the Minister for her answer. Given the importance of this to elderly people, is it likely that we will see this funding maintained in the longer term?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Well, certainly, the concessionary fares scheme remains an Executive commitment. It would be a very foolish Member of the Assembly who sought to do away with it. It has brought tremendous benefits to the older population and has proved to be very successful.

So, as she will know — in ring-fencing and moving forward — only front-line health and social care was protected in the 2015-16 Budget and, therefore, it really is for the Regional Development Minister to decide during this year.

I have no doubt that it will become a matter for discussion during the next Programme for Government discussions, and I predict, quite confidently, that we will keep the SmartPass scheme.