Budget set to be presented to Executive after eleventh hour agreement

A budget for the new financial year is set to be presented to Executive ministers after an eleventh hour agreement on the spending plans.

By David Young
Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:59 am

On Wednesday afternoon Finance Minister Conor Murphy accused First Minister Arlene Foster of blocking the budget paper from getting onto the Executive agenda.

In response, the DUP claimed Mr Murphy had failed to draw up spending plans that could command the support of the wider Executive.

Funding for a new compensation scheme for victims of the Troubles was among the issues at the heart of the impasse between the administration’s two main parties.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy

Hours after Mr Murphy and the DUP criticised each other over the stand-off, an agreement was reached to allow the budget paper onto the agenda of Thursday’s meeting.

The delays in agreeing the spending proposals meant Mr Murphy was unable to lay a draft budget to the Assembly before the beginning of the financial year.

The disagreement over the compensation scheme played out as Belfast and London remain at loggerheads over who should meet the costs of payments for those injured during the conflict.

It has been estimated the cost of the scheme could reach £1.2 billion.

The Government has suggested that £100 million of Treasury funding earmarked for issues related to Northern Ireland’s “unique circumstances” in the deal to restore Stormont could be used to part-fund the scheme.

Mr Murphy has rejected this proposal, insisting it does not amount to an additional funding commitment.

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that Stormont was under a legal duty to fund the payment scheme.

It made no finding on the source of that funding – i.e. from the current block grant or by way of extra Treasury funding for the region – and urged the Executive and Northern Ireland Office to agree a solution.