Finance Minister Arlene Foster today announced over £47.6 million additional funding to alleviate pressures in the Health Service.
The Northern Ireland Executive agreed this reallocation of funding as part of the November monitoring round. Monitoring rounds usually take place three times in each financial year and are the vehicle for the Executive to reallocate unspent funding and address unforeseen financial pressures in-year.
The Minister said: “Today’s reallocation of funding is only possible because of the agreement reached yesterday. As a result of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement we now have the vital resources to deal with in-year pressures faced by Departments. This is the earliest opportunity to address some of the most significant pressures particularly in health, road maintenance and education.
“Additional resource funding of £47.6 million for the Health Service will increase capacity in our hospitals and provide more assessments and treatments across a range of specialties. It is estimated that funding of £40 million for elective care and diagnostics will allow up to a further 40,000 assessments and 15,000 treatments in additional operations and treatments by the end of March 2016. This will go some way to reducing excessive waiting lists for both outpatients and inpatients and improve outcomes for patients.
“The extra financial support of £16.5 million resource expenditure for roads will help to keep vehicles moving safely through severe winter weather conditions as well as carrying out basic maintenance on our roads and keeping our street lights on.
“The Department for Education will benefit from additional resource funding of £15 million. This will help meet the increased demand for special education needs for pupils in both mainstream and special schools. The increase in budget will also deal with urgent and planned maintenance in our school buildings and address the deterioration of the schools’ estate.”
Arlene Foster added: “We have been able to pull back from a budget crisis because of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, including the 2015-16 budgetary flexibilities negotiated last year. In June I also took the pre-emptive step of writing to all Departments to halt discretionary spend ensuring that only inescapable or contractual commitments should continue to be funded. I welcome the fact that Ministers have taken the sometimes difficult decisions needed to curtail spend. These factors, combined with rapid rollout of the Voluntary Exit Scheme, have enabled the Executive to deliver a balanced budgetary position in 2015-16. This has made it possible for the November monitoring round to proceed, providing much needed additional funding for key public services.”
Other reallocations within the November monitoring round include:
- DARD – £3.9 million Resource DEL for TB Compensation
- DCAL – £1.1 million Resource DEL for Health & Safety Obligations
- DE – £15m Resource DEL for Schools Surpluses, Estate Maintenance and Special Education Needs
- DETI – £4 million Capital DEL for Invest NI
- DFP – £2 million Capital DEL for the Rate Rebate Replacement Project
- DHSSPS – £47.6 million Resource DEL for Elective Care, Diagnostics, Psychological Therapies and Other Services
- DOJ – £2.7 million Capital for Forensic Lab and Prisons Estate
- DRD – £16.5 million Resource DEL and £5 million Capital DEL for Roads Maintenance, £2 million Resource DEL for Concessionary Fares and £0.6 million Resource DEL for Community Transport
The Executive also agreed that unless circumstances merit a further monitoring round, this will be the final monitoring round in 2015-16. However a technical monitoring round should take place in early January without recourse to the Executive, which would provide departments with an opportunity to adjust their budgets within Executive agreed allocations.
The Minister concluded: “While we have been able to address in-year budgetary pressures it will be important, following the Spending Review outcome on 25 November, for the Executive to turn its attention to agreeing a Budget for 2016-17.”