Difficult times ahead, says Farry, as Secretary of State sets local Budget 

Some difficult times are ahead in terms of public spending, Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP has said.

Stephen Farry Finance Budget

The North Down MP was speaking after Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris set a Budget for Executive Departments. Dr Farry said the lack of an Executive and Assembly was allowing opportunities for long-term planning to be missed.

“It is regrettable but inevitable it has fallen to the Secretary of State to set a Northern Ireland Budget for this financial year,” he said.

“This Budget would normally be agreed in advance of the start of the financial year, and provide a framework for spending decisions and discipline. At this stage in the cycle, preparations should be well underway for the Budget in the forthcoming financial year. 

“Today’s statement provides a basis for the continuity of public services, but with the current governance gap, there is little scope for strategic decisions to be taken to reform public services to make them more sustainable. 

“Indeed, Northern Ireland should be currently availing of the opportunities for longer-term planning that comes with what is a rare multi-year spending review and allocations. With the absence of a functioning Executive and Assembly, this opportunity is being squandered. 

“The future of resources for the Block Grant in the years ahead as outlined in last week’s Autumn Statement is to flatline. Some very difficult times are ahead in terms of public spending here. 

“Regrettably, the opportunity to fix the roof when the sun was shining hasn’t been taken in recent years. We should be much further on in reforming public services and tackling the costs of a divided society to free up resources for reinvestment. Options on revenue-raising also need to be considered. 

“Those considerations are now going to have to be accelerated in a much more difficult governance and financial context.”