Belfast Telegraph

£13m set aside to plug "unacceptable" DRD budget

By Michael McHugh

A total of £13 million has been set aside because of the "unacceptable" failure of regional development minister Danny Kennedy to address a gap in his budget, the finance minister said.

The shortfall was caused by the failure of the Executive to raise money from selling off part of Belfast port.

The Harbour Estate is home to many well-known Northern Ireland businesses including George Best Belfast City Airport, Harland & Wolff, Bombardier, the Odyssey, the Northern Ireland Science Park, the Titanic Quarter and Titanic Belfast.

Finance minister Simon Hamilton said: "It is absolutely unacceptable for ministers to manage their budgets on the expectation of additional funding being secured through the Executive's in-year monitoring process."

The Ulster Unionists have raised with the Prime Minister the prospect of selling off the Harbour Estate to pay for the reduction to the Stormont budget caused by cutting the rate of corporation tax.

Mr Hamilton said the regional development minister had indicated that his department was likely to overspend on its running costs this year, with the estimated pressure amounting to £13 million.

"The potential overspend is a consequence of the minister's failure to address in full the £20 million gap in his budget as a consequence of value not being released from Belfast Port as planned at the time of the last budget.

"The DRD minister has been aware of this pressure for some time and he should have taken the actions necessary to address it at the start of the financial year."

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