Cuts to hit grants for neighbourhood renewal schemes
Neighbourhood renewal schemes to boost decaying communities are under threat as a result of Stormont budget cuts, it has been revealed.
Around £28m was spent on the programme in the last year, but further investment in more schemes is in doubt, along with cuts to the Housing Executive, which could face "significant reductions" in its direct grants.
Nelson McCausland's Department for Social Development has to find savings of £13.5m by the end of March,while Stephen Farry's Department of Employment and Learning must cut into its budget even further to the tune of £16.5m in the next six months.
Along with Danny Kennedy's Department for Regional Development and the Department of Justice headed by David Ford, they are the ministries facing the biggest hits as a result of the deal over the June monitoring round – in which the Departments of Health and Education were given a reprieve.
First Minister Peter Robinson said the likely further budget reductions from the next spending round would "impact massively" on vulnerable families.
"Programmes will be reduced or ended. Services will be detrimentally impacted and major capital projects will be binned," he warned.
Mr McCausland's department said it was being asked to find immediate reductions of £13.5m and potentially a further tranche of reductions later in the year – but no final decisons have been taken.
"Consideration will have to be given as to whether we can sustain the current levels of investment in neighbourhood renewal schemes," it said.
"Similarly, while the department would seek to protect the existing voluntary sector and community support programmes, the department cannot guarantee that these budgets will emerge unscathed from this process."
Spending on the neighbourhood renewal schemes across Northern Ireland amounted to more than £28m last year. The aim was to bring together all Government departments working with local people to tackle disadvantage and deprivation. Neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10% of wards across Northern Ireland were identified and a total of 36 areas aided.