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Arlene Foster's draft budget is a considerable achievement in terms of complexity

By John Simpson

Published 29/12/2015

Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister smiles at a hotel in Belfast after being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister smiles at a hotel in Belfast after being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister walks from the lectern after the election contest for leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Belfast on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson (L) shares a joke with the new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast after the leadership contest on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (R) listens as the new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister speaks in Belfast after the election contest for leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) claps as the new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast speaks after the election contest for leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) claps as the new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast speaks after the election contest for leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) and new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast wave after the election contest for leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) and deputy leader Nigel Dodds (R) raise the arms of new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast after being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) and deputy leader Nigel Dodds (R) raise the arms of new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast after being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (L) and deputy leader Nigel Dodds (R) raise their hands with new leader Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister in Belfast after being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) shares a joke with outgoing leader Peter Robinson at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (L) addresses the media and party colleagues watched by Peter Robinson (R) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (C) is congratulated by outgoing leader Peter Robinson (L) and deputy leader Nigel Dodds (R) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) is congratulated by outgoing leader Peter Robinson (L) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster addresses the media and party colleagues at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (C) addresses the media and party colleagues at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) is congratulated by outgoing leader Peter Robinson (L) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster addresses the media and party colleagues at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) addresses the media and party colleagues watched by Peter Robinson at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) is congratulated by outgoing leader Peter Robinson (L) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: The new DUP leader Arlene Foster (R) is congratulated by outgoing leader Peter Robinson (L) at the Park Avenue hotel after the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster succeeds Peter Robinson and becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Arlene Foster (DUP) attends a meeting at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast
Arlene Foster (DUP) attends a meeting at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast
Arlene Foster (DUP) attends a meeting at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th December 2015 New Leader of the DUP Arlene Foster pictured at a Belfast Hotel where she was chosen as party leader of the DUP. She is pictured with Ian Paisley MP. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/12/2015 Arlene Foster (DUP) attends a meeting at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast on Thursday evening, As the DUP set to confirm Arlene Foster as their new party leader. Ms Foster is the only name that has been put forward for the consideration and will be the first woman to take up the post. It comes after current party leader Peter Robinson announced his decision to retire in the wake of the Fresh Start agreement reached at Stormont last month. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: DUP leader in waiting Arlene Foster poses for photographs with party colleagues at the Park Avenue hotel ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster, who will succeed Peter Robinson becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: DUP leader in waiting Arlene Foster (L) jokes with DUP MLA Emma Pengelly (R) at the Park Avenue hotel ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster, who will succeed Peter Robinson becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: DUP leader in waiting Arlene Foster (C) jokes with party colleagues at the Park Avenue hotel ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster, who will succeed Peter Robinson becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - DECEMBER 17: DUP leader in waiting Arlene Foster (L) jokes with Emma Pengelly (2nd L) at the Park Avenue hotel ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party electoral college meeting on December 17, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster, who will succeed Peter Robinson becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. No other nominations were put forward for the role of leader. Mrs Foster will also be appointed as the new Northern Ireland first minister in the coming weeks. The former Ulster Unionist Party member has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the DUP following her defection in 2004, twice standing in as temporary first minister for Peter Robinson in times of personal and political crisis. The DUP remain the largest political party within the provinces' Executive government. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Arlene Foster (R), Northern Ireland Finance Minister poses for a picture at a hotel in Belfast before being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister smiles at a hotel in Belfast before being elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister arrives at a hotel in Belfast to be elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Finance Minister arrives at a hotel in Belfast to be elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on December 17, 2015. A special electoral college will gather at the hotel, and Foster is the only candidate for the leadership. Foster will replace Peter Robinson following his announcement that he will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of the DUP. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th December 2015 New Leader of the DUP Arlene Foster pictured at a Belfast Hotel where she was chosen as party leader of the DUP. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Pacemaker Press 14/11/2013 Arlene Foster at the funeral of Eddie McGrady, the former South Down MP at St Patrick's Church in Downpatrick on thursday , Mr McGrady was later then buried at St Patrick's Cemetery, Saul. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BFST Former Ulster Unionist Arlene Foster
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/09/2015: Theresa Villiers has told MPs that despite a request from the DUP, the government does not think the time is right to suspend Northern Ireland's devolved institutions. Ms Villiers will be joined by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan at Stormont House for talks with the Northern Ireland political party. The DUP's Arlene Foster pictured arriving for the talks. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press 3/7/2012 First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Tourism Minister Arlene Foster during the opening of the New Visitors centre at the Giants Causeway in Co Antrim Yesterday, The £18.5m building has taken 18 months to complete and includes exhibition spaces, a cafe and shops. Walks and trails around the site have also been upgraded, with the addition of a new accessible cliff-top walk for families and people with disabilities .PIcture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/10/2011 Arlene Foster DUP with Open Champion Darren Clarke who was awarded the freedom of the borough of Dungannon pictured at Dungannon Golf Club where he began his career. Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Press 18/1/10 Stand in First Minister Arlene Foster with journalist Eamonn Malley at Stormont yesterday as crunch talks take place on Policing and Justice Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
11/1/2010. NEWLY APPOINTED FIRST MINISTER ARLENE FOSTER addresses the media AT STORMONT AFTERNOON. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
pacemaker press 11/8/13. Minister Arlene Foster and Hundreds of people protested at a controversial republican parade taking place in Castlederg, County Tyrone. The Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade commemorates republicans who died during the Troubles, including two IRA men killed by their own bomb. Several hundred bandsmen and republican supporters took part. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had urged organisers to call off the march, saying it was "causing great hurt" to victims ofterrorism. The parade, which is supported by Sinn Féin, began after 15:00 BST on Sunday and supporters clapped as it moved off. picture Mark marlow/pacemaker press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 1/06/06 DUP Policing board members Arlene Foster and Ian Paisley Junior pictured at the Policing Board's monthly meeting today where they questioned the Ulster Unionists policy of letting PUP member David Ervine join their parliamentry party at Stormont inb the light of the suspected UVF murder attempt on Mark Haddock
Pictured at Hillsborough Court House, an example of an historic listed building, are Arlene Foster, Minister of the Environment and Richard Rogers, Chief Executive, Environment and Heritage Service.  The Minister has announced two major funding initiatives totalling £3.9 million for Northern's Ireland's historic listed buildings.  The historic heritage has great potential both socially and economically and it is hoped many more listed buildings willenefit from this additional funding.
PACEMAKER BFST 05-01-04:DUP party leaders Ian Paisley & Peter Robinson cant hide his delight at the press conference at Stormont to announce that Arlene Foster were joining the DUP after resigning from the UUP last month. 11/1/10 DUP leader Peter Robinson has announced he is to step aside for six weeks as First Minister amid the storm over his wife's private life and finances. Mr Robinson has designated Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster to take charge in the interim.
PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 20-05-2008: His Royal Highness,The Prince of Wales, was guest of honour at the 'Windows of Opportunity' Heritage and regeneration Conference at Stormont Hotel in Belfast. His Royal Highness was greeted by Arlene Foster MLA, Minister of the Environment,and Richard Rogers,Chief Executive for Environment and Heritage Service. PICTURE BY: ARTHUR ALLISON.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -18th November 2015 Finance Minster Arlene Foster pictured in her office at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th December 2015 Portrait of Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont in advance of becoming DUP leader. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th December 2015 Arlene Foster pictured in the DUP office in Lisburn with Liam Clarke. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th December 2015 Arlene Foster pictured in Castle Street, Lisburn. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The finances of the Stormont administration have been reviewed and restated so that Northern Ireland is no longer threatened with the collapse of Stormont.

The (outgoing) Finance Minister, Arlene Foster, in possibly her last critical departmental decisions has persuaded the Executive to adopt a balanced sustainable budget for 2016-17

The draft budget publication by the Minister on behalf of the Executive is a considerable achievement in terms of complexity (adjusting to only nine departments), setting priorities and living within the block grant allocation.

The ministers and senior civil servants could have been forgiven if they had needed more time to complete the task. This draft budget will go to the Assembly for approval in January and, thereafter, there will be full detail of each allocation.

The draft budget for 2016-17 is no bonanza. Some departments will be asked to manage a departmental budget which is 5.7% lower than in the current year. Not an easy imposition, especially following other earlier reductions.

In total, Northern Ireland has done well compared to the experience of many departments in GB. In real terms the total budget is nearly the same as for 2015-16. Arguably, Northern Ireland might be said to have escaped from austerity. The outcome is uneven. Priority spending has edged upwards, but financial pain has not been abolished.

Some central features of the Budget stand out.

First, there is an effort to ease the budget problems in the provision of health and social care services. An extra £133m goes to this department. However, this is less than 3% of the current spending total in terms of hard cash. Even allowing for modest inflation, the Health and Social Care Trusts will see this as a continuing squeeze when allowance is made for demographic change, new technologies and improved techniques.

Second there are budget concessions for improved allocations to a difficult budget for legal aid and improved allocations for maintaining the roads infrastructure. Only a modest concession is earmarked for a much needed and currently inadequate skills agenda

To encourage reshaping of the delivery of public services, £117.6m is earmarked to pay for the voluntary exit schemes for employees from organisations such as the Housing Executive, Further Education colleges, schools and the PSNI. This adjustment in public sector employment is to be financed as part of extra borrowing of £200m by Stormont. Indirectly, this points to a significant labour force reduction.

To begin to answer the continuing criticisms of the quality of the infrastructure in Northern Ireland the Executive has prioritised seven major flagship projects. Each has been acknowledged for some time but now a firmer timetable is set for improving both the A5 and A6 roads (which are critical to regional development), and investing in Belfast Rapid Transport and in the proposed Belfast Transport Hub.

In addition funding is earmarked for the new hospital, the utility training facility at Desertcreat, and regional sports stadia.

The Stormont budget is now sustainable. Public services can be managed but with a continuing squeeze on staffing. Capital spending on the infrastructure will increase.

The implications for the economy are, on balance, positive but not without some key reservations.

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