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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:00 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin 5:00 pm, 19th January 2016

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I will speak on behalf of our party and, indeed, of my Sinn Féin colleagues on the Committee for Regional Development. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Budget.

It is very important to point out from the outset that DRD is operating within a 9% cut, so it has taken its fair share of the cuts. Despite that, I think it is fair to say that we have a fair and balanced distribution of the funding allocation. Whilst there are a number of outstanding issues relating to the funding and that will have implications for the new Department for Infrastructure, most relate to functions that will be inherited by the new Department, like the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), road safety and Rivers Agency. I look forward, as will other members, to teasing out many of those issues tomorrow when the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) project officials come before the Committee for Regional Development.

Whilst there is a wide range of issues that we could focus on, there are two that I want to look at. One relates to flagship projects and the other to structural maintenance. Those are two very important issues in the document.

We welcome the statement from the Minister on 17 December that recognised the importance of those flagship projects for the economy and, indeed, for providing funding certainty beyond this financial year. In my constituency of West TyroneMr Buchanan referred to this — one of those flagship projects related to the £229 million allocated to the A5 over the next number of years. That is good news and absolutely vital to address the infrastructure deficit that we have west of the Bann. This has been long-awaited, especially by the business community and commuters. It will reduce journey times and increase road safety. It is also a very important economic driver.

(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Newton] in the Chair)

When the business case for the A5 was being constructed, they identified that it would be worth £1 billion of an injection to the local economy not just in the construction but through the trickle-down effect from the wider development. The Budget document states that £229 million has been allocated, but I understand that £170 million is required to fund section 1. I anticipate that the remaining £59 million will be for the other sections, bearing in mind that we will continue the efforts, working with the Irish Government, to uplift their contribution from the current £75 million to the original £400 million. Indeed, the A5 is part of the Irish Government's national development plan, and this will no doubt become a topic of future questions in Committee and to the Minister.