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Executive meets amid stand-off over budget consultation

Finance Minister Conor Murphy wants the endorsement of the wider Executive for his draft spending plan before starting a public consultation.

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Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy (PA)

Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy (PA)

Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy (PA)

Stormont ministers are meeting in a bid to resolve a stand-off over the Executive’s next budget.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy wants the backing of ministerial colleagues before sending the draft three-year spending plan out for public consultation.

However, several ministers are understood to be unwilling to formally support the draft budget at this point.

A virtual meeting of the powersharing administration was convened at 9am in an attempt to find a resolution.

The budget plan is set to see funding cut to several departments as Mr Murphy has sought to prioritise spending on Northern Ireland’s under-pressure health system.

Before the budget can be finalised and agreed by the Executive and Assembly, it must be subjected to a 12-week public consultation exercise.

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With the Assembly due to be dissolved at the end of March ahead of the next Assembly election, Mr Murphy must commence the consultation exercise before Christmas if those timelines are to be met.

He wants the plan to go out as an agreed Executive budget.

However, it is understood the DUP, Alliance and SDLP would rather it be presented as a Department of Finance budget.

Such a move would potentially give those parties’ representatives more latitude to scrutinise and even criticise the plans during the consultation period.

It is understood Mr Murphy raised concerns at Thursday’s Executive, insisting he was not prepared to put out the budget for consultation without the backing of the wider Executive.

Ahead of Friday’s Executive, Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “Sinn Fein Finance minister has prioritised funding to tackle waiting lists, transform our health service and support healthcare workers.”


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