“the guiding principle for our final budget.”

Some points to note about the final budget as presented to the Assembly.

From the Northern Ireland Finance Minister’s statement.

Also, the Executive has agreed to introduce a measure of over-commitment on both the current and capital side. The overcommitment of £30 million per annum on both current and capital is really a ’self-help’ facility, made possible by better financial management across the public sector and the many revenue generating opportunities identified by departments. I believe that, in this context, this is a prudent level at which to set the overcommitment.

Which, by my calculation, is an “overcommitment” of £60million per annum over each of the 4 years of the draft budget – which is £240million in total.

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport offers an analogy…

A Finance department official stood behind me in the queue for the Stormont canteen. He tried to pay for his fish supper but found he didn’t have enough change. I offered to bale [sic] him out. Instead he negotiated a stay of execution on the bill until he could visit the cash machine.

There it was. An unplanned overcommitment, with a willingness to find the cash at a later stage – the guiding principle for our final budget.

Although, to complete that analogy, the Finance department official already knows that his account is empty…

And on the Belfast Port levy, the Minister claims

Turning to the issue of the Belfast Port, colleagues will be aware that, in the Draft Budget, we agreed a planning assumption that the Port would make £15million per annum available in the third and fourth year of the budget period. In addition, the Port was to provide £5 million in the first year towards the Paint Hall development in the Harbour Estate – a key development in terms of attracting high value inward investment.

“This has not proved possible, therefore we have adopted an alternative approach to the Paint Hall issue – funding it from within our own resources. However, in the longer term, I still believe we can maximize the value of the Port to the broader strategic interests of Northern Ireland, and thus I have increased the assumed resources in the final two years to £20million per annum, and the Regional Development Minister will proactively pursue the necessary legislative changes to underpin this approach.

But as Mark Devenport also points out

P.S. On the topic of additional revenue, the Regional Development department is meant to be actively pursuing legislation to allow for a levy on Belfast Port. But last month an executive from Belfast Harbour told the BBC’s “Stormont Today” that this measure would require primary legislation for all trust ports across the UK. So this might prove a complex task for the department, requiring the involvement of Westminster as well as Stormont.