Stormont Budget: Parties Pass Spending Plan Despite Opposition

The Northern Ireland Assembly recently passed its first budget in three years, despite facing opposition from multiple parties. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) refused to support the budget, with outgoing UUP Health Minister Robin Swann expressing concerns about the priorities outlined in the plan.

During the debate, Sinn Féin’s Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald defended the budget, highlighting the challenges faced in allocating funds for day-to-day spending and infrastructure. The budget, which allocated approximately £15 billion for day-to-day expenses and £2 billion for infrastructure and investment, received cross-community support with a vote of 61 to 21.

Criticism of the budget came from various quarters, with SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole stating that the plan lacked a strategic vision for the future. Despite concerns raised by opposition parties, the budget passed, paving the way for the allocation of funds to various departments.

The Department of Health received the largest share of day-to-day funding at £7.8 billion, followed by the Department of Education (£2.9 billion) and the Department of Justice (£1.3 billion). While the health budget saw a 6.3% increase compared to the previous year’s opening position, it was down by 2.3% from the previous year’s actual spending.

Additional funds totaling £200 million will be available for reallocation through the June monitoring round, addressing some of the pressures highlighted in the existing health allocation. Despite the opposition and concerns raised, the budget’s passage marks a significant step forward for the Northern Ireland Assembly in addressing key financial priorities.

As the region grapples with the implications of the budget, ongoing discussions and reallocation exercises will play a crucial role in ensuring that vital services are protected and resources are utilized effectively in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland.