Looks like the Minister really did find that extra £72 million down the back of a departmental sofa…

Interesting that with just over a month to go before Sammy Wilson puts all departmental budgets under scrutiny to see what he can claw back for DFP, the Education Minister managed to locate £72 million of ‘savings’ over the next three years.

According to the Minister’s party political presser, this figure was as a result of “an internal review that has led to further reductions in bureaucracy and savings from other educational services.”

That impression was enhanced by his colleague Daithi McKay who added that “over £72 million in extra investment is available for various education services”.

According to the Minster, this means at least £28 million extra for this year. This is in addition to an extra £30 million the Minister petitioned for and got as recently as January this year (part of a tranche of 120 million over the next three years) to fill what the department apparently claimed was a budgetary shortfall.

When interviewed tonight on Evening Extra by Seamus McKee, the Minister admitted that this latest tranche of cash had been found not from ‘reductions in bureaucracy’ (bar a demand from CCEA to lose £3 million) but from projects that had either already completed or had been found could do with less than the department had budgeted for.

It’s known in the trade as over-budgeting and/or underspending. The ‘extra’ was given in January when the Minister ‘needed’ it. But the internal review appears to show that he was actually on course to underspend by £72 Million albeit over three years. Thus the hasty last minute ‘reallocation’.

Although the Minister joked lightly with McKee that it hadn’t been found down the back of the departments sofas, that is exactly what looks like has happened. So he does now have extra resources, because of the extra £120 million he appealed for in January. It seems like he had had this £72 million all along.

Not sure the Minister for DFP will be quite so generous in the next few rounds…

Adds: In today’s Irish News, Simon Doyle notes that cuts for the next three years amount to £170 million to be taken directly away from schools…