North Antrim MLA Paul Frew has said the success rate of Ministers bids to the Department of Finance give greater context to the efforts of various Departments to tackle the Covid pandemic. He was speaking after raising the figures during a debate on the Spring Supplementary Estimates today in the Assembly.
The DUP MLA said, "The Spring estimates debate is an opportunity to look back over the previous year whereas the budget debate looks forward. Given the huge challenges of the last year, these figures help put the efforts of different Departments into proper context.
Throughout the year there has been a constant refrain from the Finance Minister during Monitoring Rounds that everything was dependent upon bids. Whilst allocations obviously couldn't be made to Departments without bids, that is only part of the story. The other side is whether those bids are successful.
The Covid pandemic imposed both a health crisis and an economic crisis upon the Executive, and Monitoring Rounds provided an invaluable opportunity to make allocations at relatively short notice. it is understandable that the Department of Health's bids outstripped all others, and indeed that 95% of these were successful.
The scale of the challenge facing the Department for the Economy is underscored by some 88 separate bids made to the Finance Minister, 81 of which were related to Covid-19 support. These bids totalled nearly £338.8million, but only 36% of this was granted by the Finance Minister.
This contrasts starkly with the Department for Communities where 89% of funding requested in Monitoring Round bids was allocated. This of course is a Department which is still failing to deliver a Kickstart scheme because the Minister refuses to replicate the template already in operation in Great Britain and has failed to produce the 'bespoke' alternative promised.
The challenges facing different Ministers were always going to vary. However, for any Minister it will be easier to operate when funding is available. People will undoubtedly look at these figures and hope the Finance Minister is able to explain such significant differences."