Belfast Telegraph

Budget pledge for schools: Education to get lion's share' of extra £150m

By Nevin Farrell

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has revealed the Department of Education is set to receive the "lion's share" of additional money in the Stormont budget when it is officially unveiled today.

Mr Hamilton is also expecting to deliver good news for the departments of Health, Employment and Learning, Enterprise and Policing.

The executive passed the budget for 2015-16 on Friday despite political discord.

Three of the Stormont parties, Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance, voted against.

However, with support from the two biggest parties - DUP and Sinn Fein - it was passed with a majority of 9-4.

An extra £150m is now being given to executive departments, compared with the spending which was set out in the draft budget when it was published in the autumn.

The budget will be officially unveiled in the Assembly today.

Mr Hamilton told the BBC's Sunday Politics that the Executive had been able to make "strategic allocations" to departments the public viewed as priorities.

Despite three of the five Executive parties voting against the budget, Mr Hamilton, of the DUP, said:

"It's fair to say that the lion's share of that £150m, and in fact the biggest single allocation will be going to the Department of Education."

He said the public had stressed that nothing should be done to damage the prospects of our young people as they learn for the future.

Mr Hamilton said: "That's in response to not only our desire within the Executive to see a high-quality education system, but also the consultation that was there.

"That was put out in the response that has come back from the public and the concern that there was that the classroom would be hit."

The Finance Minister also welcomed the fact that ministers had agreed to move forward with a budget. And he was pleased it was done some time to spare from the deadline of the end of January.

The minister added: "I think the fact that we have been able to agree a budget and agree that budget well in advance of the deadline of doing it by the end of January, with two weeks to spare, is an achievement particularly when you consider where we have come from.

"The fact that we have been able to find another £150m to put into the budget, to put into key frontline public services and also to underpin economic growth and to get agreement on that - I think it's something we should be welcoming," he added.

Background

Today marks a significant day at Stormont when the budget is revealed after initial failure to agree on a range of issues, including the budget, almost brought Stormont down. The day was saved when the DUP and Sinn Fein found agreement at the eleventh hour during intense talks running up to Christmas.

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