Minister to launch budget consultation

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons will launch an Equality Impact Assessment consultation on his initial decisions on the Department for Communities 2024-25 budget.

By Gordon Lyons MLA

East Antrim

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The consultation will run from 11 June until 3 September 2024, and ask for views on the allocation of funds for the financial year 2024-25.

The Executive’s Budget 2024-25 settlement provides the Department with £856.0m Resource DEL, £133.4m Capital DEL and £29.8m Financial Transactions Capital.

The Department for Communities and its funded Arm’s Length Bodies face significant funding challenges in delivering a balanced budget in 2024-25. Pressures arising from a constrained budget are compounded by recent high levels of inflation, which have added to the cost of delivering public services, along with further increased demand for public services.

Minister Lyons said: “There is no doubt that all departments face a challenging set of circumstances following the budget agreed by the Executive in April. For my Department, this budget represents significant shortfalls of £115.8m on Resource and £167.3m on Capital against 2024-25 requirements. Tough decisions need to be taken if we are to protect core public service delivery.

“I have taken the following initial decisions in relation to my 2024-25 budgets:

  • To protect the Voluntary & Community sector with increased funding of £1.45m.
  • To protect the Supporting People programme with increased funding of £4.8m.
  • To provide £22m for Discretionary Support Grants, an increase of 10% on last year’s budget.
  • Funding for the Department’s Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) and Homelessness is protected at prior year levels.
  • Funding will continue for Labour Market Partnerships with Councils.

“The vast majority of the Capital budget will continue to be invested in social housing. However, the funding available will severely constrain the number of new starts possible this year.

“Other areas of investment include sport, regeneration and City Deal projects.

“In order to protect these services, very difficult decisions have been taken in other areas, these include:

  • Continued vacancy control and further reduction in the Department’s staffing levels.
  • A £1.8m reduction in the Rates Support Grant provided to Councils.
  • Not extending the JobStart (16-24) scheme and other parity employment support interventions.
  • No further investment in tackling rising levels of welfare fraud and error.”

The Minister added: “When I took up office, I said my key priority is to deliver real, positive and lasting change for the people in Northern Ireland. My strategic focus remains the programmes and policies that are transformative for people’s lives and for our society. I have tried to shield core services as far as possible, while living within our budget.

“I have not taken these decisions lightly and will continue to press for additional funding at every opportunity.

“I will also continue to look carefully at every pound spent to make sure it goes to those who need it most and to deliver positive impact for people.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest to make their views known during this consultation period. All responses will feed into the decision making process going forward, and help to shape the broad range of public services which my Department delivers.”

The Draft Budget EQIA will launch on 11 June on the Department’s website

The consultation will end on 3 September 2024.

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