THE CHANCES of public services being expanded or major infrastructure projects being given the green light in Fermanagh this year are extremely slim, judging by warnings about the upcoming budget.
Unveiling the Executive’s draft budget for the coming financial year on Monday, Finance Minister Conor Murphy warned there was not enough money available to “kick start our economic recovery from Covid-19 and Brexit.” However, given the financial hardships facing families, he promised a rates freeze and urged local Councils to do the same.
Stating the spending review from last November, which set out what funds were available to the Executive, did not go far enough, Minister Murphy, pictured left, said the 2021-22 budget position was “difficult and effectively a standstill” from last year’s budget.
“With increased demands on public services and taking account of inflation, it will be a challenge merely to deliver existing services at their current levels,” he said.
“I recognise for most departments the draft budget outcome represents flat cash settlement which will mean effective reductions once increased costs and demands on services are taken into account. Choices will have to be made, public services will have to be prioritised.”
Noting Covid would continue to pose challenges throughout the year, Minister Murphy said the Executive would continue to do all it could to support the health service, businesses, and vulnerable people in the community.
“We have prioritised the small amount of additional funding available to continue welfare reform mitigations, fund Agenda for Change pay, help pupils with Special Educational Needs and to support low income families through holiday hunger payments,” he said.
Minister Murphy said that while additional revenue could be raised by increasing rates, which are part set by the Executive and part set by local councils, he recognised the financial hardships already facing households and businesses.
With the local Council set to make an announcement on its rates in the coming weeks, Minister Murphy made the following appeal: “I would urge councils to play their part and do the same in respect of their district rates.”
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