Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Schools Estate: Budget Impact

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 19th January 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Oliver McMullan Oliver McMullan Sinn Féin 3:00 pm, 19th January 2016

5. Mr McMullan asked the Minister of Education to outline the impact the uplift in capital in his 2016-17 budget will have on the schools estate. (AQO 9424/11-16)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Following the Executive's agreement on Budget 2016-17 on 17 December 2015, my Department has been allocated a total capital budget of £193·7 million. This allocation includes £20·3 million of capital funding from the economic pact that funds the projects agreed under the Together: Building a United Community initiative. The total capital budget for 2016-17 represents an increase of £46·9 million on the opening 2015-16 capital allocation.

I am currently working through the impact of the Budget 2016-17 outcome on the education sector, and finalising allocations to specific capital programmes. I anticipate, however, that the uplift in the 2016-17 capital budget will ensure that all the major work projects due to progress to construction in the financial year 2016-17 will have the required capital funding in place to do so. It will also allow much of the backlog of minor work schemes that built up as a result of this year's constrained budget to be cleared. The improved budget position will also facilitate the release of additional school enhancement programme schemes to construction. Overall, this increase in capital funding will yield only positive results for the schools estate and for our local economy.

Photo of Oliver McMullan Oliver McMullan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer. Minister, how much of the backlog of the minor works programme will this be able to reduce?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

We will be able to work our way through the backlog quite significantly, and I am talking about the backlog that built up last year as a result of what was a reduction in our capital budget. That said, every year, more minor works come online. There will be minor works processing through the system at this stage, and I will always be happy to lobby for and gain more capital funds to move our minor works projects forward. We faced significant issues and problems with minor works this year, but I do believe that we will be able to deal with the backlog that was in the system. As I said, more schemes under the school enhancement programme, which has been very beneficial to the schools estate, will be released in the weeks and months ahead.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. Gazing into his crystal ball, could the Minister perhaps give us an indication of when schools such as St Paul's in Coleraine and St Mary's in Clady will have the new building that they were promised if they went out of existence in return for a new build?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

During Question Time, when the issue of capital budgets is raised, there is always a danger that each individual MLA will step up and, quite understandably, ask about projects in their own constituency. Unfortunately, I can neither carry the paperwork nor store all that information in my head. However, I am more than happy to forward that information to the Member.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

When, before the end of this mandate, does the Minister expect to make an announcement on the capital schools programme?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I hope to be in a position to make a capital schools announcement in relation to the primary school sector before the end of this mandate. I will make that announcement because, in the delivery of primary schools, capital expenditure is less on each project and they are quicker to deliver. It will be up to future Ministers to make announcements across the range of post-primary, primary, nursery and youth facilities for which the Department of Education is responsible. We have quite an extensive building programme already on the ground. I will be making a further announcement about school enhancement programmes in relation to those who have applied. We did not have the capital funds to move them forward, and I hope to be in a position to move a number of them forward in the weeks and months ahead as well.

Photo of Steven Agnew Steven Agnew Green

Does the Minister have any money for capital builds for shared and integrated education in this financial year as a result of the Fresh Start deal?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

My cup runneth over. As a result of the Stormont House Agreement, funding for shared and integrated education programmes averages around £50 million per year. As part of that agreement, we are having discussions with DFP and the Treasury as to how those funds are used. The discussions are moving forward well, and we will be in a position to start to move the projects forward within this financial year, when we conclude discussions with the three interested parties. I am more than satisfied as to how those discussions are going. Integrated and shared education is in for a significant boost to its estate.