Health given priority in Northern Irish budget plans

19 Oct 00
Northern Ireland's first home-grown budget in 29 years proffers a substantial increase in spending on the health service in the province and a boost for agriculture and rural development.

20 October 2000

Presenting the budget to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont on October 17, Finance Minister Mark Durkan allocated the £5.7bn agreed by Chancellor Gordon Brown for overall public expenditure in the province in 2001/02.

But although Durkan's proposals drew unanimous support from the often divided Ulster parties – from the republican Sinn Fein to the Democratic Unionists – there were immediate calls for a further increase in the block grant from Westminster.

Finance committee chairman Francie Molloy said: 'Health, education and economic development are clearly priorities, but at the same

time our infrastructure is crumbling. All ministers will doubtless be expressing disappointment with the final budget settlement.'

Durkan agreed that Northern Ireland needed to make a stronger case to the Treasury for more money.'Clearly we are dealing with limited resources,' he said. 'We can't give more in one area without giving less in another.'

He said spending on the health service would grow by more than £150m with an overall allocation of £2.3bn. Agricultural and rural development would have an allocation of £191m. The Department of Regional Development gets an extra 10% to buy new trains.

The Northern Ireland Executive's programme for government is to be presented to the Assembly by First Minister David Trimble on October 23.


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