Bengoa reforms cannot proceed due to Barnett funding squeeze: Lockhart

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said that unless action is taken to reform the Barnett formula an incoming Executive will not be able to deliver current levels of public services and any reform programmes such as the Bengoa report into the Health Service will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

By Carla Lockhart Candidate

Upper Bann

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The DUP MP was speaking from Westminster after evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee by Head of the NICS Jayne Brady.


Carla Lockhart said,

“The Head of the Civil Service was very clear in her evidence that the budgetary challenges facing Northern Ireland would be unchanged by an incoming Executive. Those who would offer false hope to the public that a return of devolution will resolve issues facing vital public services should reflect on the realities we face.

It was made bluntly clear for example that as our budget currently stands, an incoming Executive wouldn’t have the financial resources to implement the Bengoa report. Health Service reform is vital for both patient outcomes and the efficiency of the service itself, but without input from Treasury an Executive would have no option other than to delay this, perhaps indefinitely.

Far from providing the ability to plan reform, the current funding we receive is not even capable of meeting current demands, or providing any equivalent pay settlements that public servants are fighting for across the United Kingdom. It isn’t caused by some temporary issue but by a structural weakness of the Barnett Formula which is only set to worsen significantly over the next few years.

By ignoring relative need the Barnett Formula doesn’t provide the resources to tackle that need meaning it then increases. I welcome the consensus amongst those giving evidence to the NI Affairs Committee that a serious conversation is needed with the Government on how Northern Ireland is funded. It is needed not just for immediate pressures, but also for the transformation of public services that is so badly needed.

The Government must listen to bodies such as the NI Fiscal Council who are evidencing the deficiencies of Barnett, and immediately set about taking steps to ensure any reformed Executive will be build on firm financial foundations, as well as firm political foundations.”

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