Bullshit, and joined-up government…

Some four weeks after the departmental allocations were agreed and all Northern Ireland Executive departments have, to a greater or lesser extent, finally published their spending plans.  Don’t worry, though.  There’ll be an extra week of that public consultation…

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, is complaining that the UK Treasury has “swiped” £300million of NI departments’ yearly underspend – rather than allowing it to be drawn down in the subsequent year.

The NIO has issued a statement in response

Any money that has not been spent by Departments but carried over for use in future years is known as End Year Funding (EYF).

To help tackle the record deficit that the country inherited, the Chancellor announced in June that, regrettably, it was necessary to change the rules on EYF across government.

However the special circumstances of the Devolved Administrations, including Northern Ireland, were recognised by the Treasury.

And so theTreasury agreed to honour the amount of EYF for NI for the current year.

This amounts to some £217m and has been agreed with the Executive.

It has also been agreed – exceptionally – that if the Executive wishes to carry over money to the next financial year it may do so if the cut in spending in the current year is agreed in advance. [added empahsis]

And on those departmental spending plans. 

The Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, has decided to cut a further £41million from the department’s capital spend budget to “minimise the impacts in the classroom” – although £10m has also been set aside to pay for redundancies over the next two years.

The NI Health Minister, the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey, on the other hand, is to go ahead with building a satellite radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital, but is warning that there will be no cash to run it.  [Adds – No revenue funding for the Fire and Rescue Service Training College at Desertcreat either.  NI Health spending plans (pdf file).]

That decision, and his overall spending plan, has earned Michael McGimpsey the wrath of Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd. 

Last seen defending his party colleague, the Northern Ireland Water Minister Conor Murphy, John O’Dowd is now calling for the NI Health Minister’s head… 

As Mick said, “Ministerial responsibility? It depends on who the Minister is

And speaking of the NI Regional Development Minister and capital spending… [Adds – BBC report on DRD spending plans]

According to the ministerial statement

…the DRD draft budget has allocated almost £2 billion to capital investment over the budget period.  This includes over £1.1 billion for roads, around £185 million for public transport and over £665 million for water and sewerage services.”  

On roads, the allocations would allow the Department to continue development work on the A6 Dungiven to Derry scheme and begin construction of:

  • the A32 in Enniskillen, providing improved transport links and improving access to the new acute hospital in Enniskillen
  • the 85km dual carriageway on the A5 between Derry and Aughnacloy [added emphasis]
  • the 14km dual carriageway on the A8 between Belfast and Larne

That would be “the 85km dual carriageway on the A5” despite the doubt cast on the Irish government’s financial contribution to the project.

And, as the Irish Times reports today

OPPONENTS OF plans for a new road between Dublin and Derry have welcomed a decision by the Oireachtas transport committee to hold public hearings next month.

The proposed route would be Ireland’s longest new road, replacing much of the N2 in the Republic and the A5 in Northern Ireland. It would be part-financed by €500 million which the Government agreed to provide under the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

The Oireachtas hearings were requested by Joe Costello TD, Labour’s transport spokesman, after he met a coalition of anti-motorway and pro-heritage groups from both sides of the Border in Leinster House this week.

Mr Costello told the delegation that Labour would draft a new national development plan if it entered government and every current infrastructure project would be reviewed, “no matter what stage of planning it is at”. [added emphasis]