15 MAR 2018
Following the briefing on the Department of Finances’ Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook 2018-20, the Secretary of State has announced a Northern Ireland Budget for the financial period 2018-19.
While we welcome the Secretary of State’s budget announcement, in that it provides a level of clarity to civil servants in the face of a new financial year, there remains a deficit in long term planning.
We would urge that a strategic approach is taken to spending to ensure an enhanced and resilient built environment in Northern Ireland.
Capital spending for key infrastructure projects will receive a welcome £200m boost from the UK-DUP the confidence and supply agreement. This is particularly important given that our most recent Construction & Infrastructure Survey has shown that Northern Ireland continues to lag behind other UK regions in terms of sector growth.
Without further details on departmental spending, we would urge that budgetary challenges across other minor and maintenance projects are not compounded by pressures in financing the flagship projects. Again, we would highlight that clear timetabling of the flagship project stages would provide a better scope of impacts.
A headline of the Northern Ireland Budget for 2018-19 announcement however has been the above inflation rate rise of 4.5% in domestic rates, a move in which the Secretary of State describes as ‘necessary and important’ to continue to support key public service provision. Non-domestic rates will rise by 1.5% in line with inflation and the current small business rate relief scheme will continue.
Following further departmental budgetary planning and analysis to implement detailed spending plans, we would urge that preparatory work for 2019-20 and beyond is immediately undertaken, ensuring that strategic decisions are made for a timely Northern Ireland Budget 2019-20.