Belfast Telegraph

Stormont Executive passes budget

The Stormont Executive has passed a budget for the next financial year.

The spending plan was voted through by DUP and Sinn Fein ministers at a meeting in Stormont Castle in the face of opposition from the smaller parties, the UUP, SDLP and Alliance.

Striking a budget was a key precursor for the implementation of many aspects of the recent Stormont House political deal on a range of longstanding disputes impacting powersharing.

In particular it will mean the Government can press ahead with legislation to devolve the power to set corporation tax powers to the Executive.

The budget also reflects the deal on implementing welfare reforms in Northern Ireland, which was another element of the Stormont House Agreement.

Announcing the budget, Stormont Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said an extra £150 million had been able to be diverted to departments on top of what had been envisaged in draft spending proposals last year.

"It is a budget that does a lot to protect key public services like health, education and policing and it also makes investments that can underpin economic growth in Northern Ireland," said the DUP minister.

Mr Hamilton will outline the full detail of the budget to the Assembly on Monday.

He said it was "disappointing" the other parties had opposed the plans, accusing them of leaving the DUP and Sinn Fein to do the "heavy lifting".

"This is not a budget that would be of my making and indeed any other party would make changes if it was entirely up to them," he said.

"Our budget is like our system - it is a creature of compromise. And we have to make compromises to live within the means we have and the budget we have next year."

As well as the budget for next year, ministers voted through plans to reallocate a proportion of funds in the last three months of this financial year.

The cash-strapped Ulster Orchestra is set to be saved as a consequence of additional funds from the monitoring round allocation, with extra money also given to the Department of Regional Development to improve street lighting services in Northern Ireland.

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