Belfast Telegraph

How Northern Ireland's budget was drawn up

The unveiling of the long-awaited budget plan for Northern Ireland follows weeks of tension around the issue:

  • September 21: Finance Minister Sammy Wilson warns that the Assembly budget could be cut by billions in the Government's forthcoming spending review. He warns that pleas for special treatment for Northern Ireland will fall on deaf ears.
  • September 28: First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness meet Chancellor George Osborne in London and press for the Assembly's budget to receive special treatment, particularly in relation to capital spending on projects such as roads and schools. They report that Mr Osborne promises to show flexibility.
  • October 7: The governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales issue a joint statement demanding the Chancellor scale back on the severe cuts being predicted.
  • October 20: The Chancellor unveils his hard-hitting plans cutting £81billion from public spending over four years. Mr Wilson says the impact to the Stormont purse amounts to £4billion over four years.
  • October 20: Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are in the US on a trade mission when the details are announced. Secretary of State Owen Paterson phones them with news of the cuts. The Stormont leaders say the cuts are worse than they feared.
  • October 20: Mr Paterson says Northern Ireland has got a good deal. But a major row also ignites over claims the Government is not honouring a Gordon Brown commitment to invest £18 billion in Northern Ireland infrastructure by 2017.
  • November 12: Finance Minister Sammy Wilson confirms the hoped-for draft budget will not be agreed immediately at Stormont, but talks will continue in the Executive's Budget Review Group on agreeing a blueprint. But Mr Wilson continues to warn of the dangers of delaying tough decisions.
  • November 17: The Scottish government unveils a one-year budget which includes a public sector pay freeze for staff earning over £21,000. Wales announces a budget plan cutting spending over three years, with health spending cut by 7.6%.
  • November 15: Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he is confident a budget will be agreed, "over the course of the short while". He later repeats his promise for measures to protect jobs and front-line services.
  • December 3: Peter Robinson set a December 15 target date for a deal on a budget. He said politicians were nearing agreement on a plan that could freeze civil service pay, reduce the use of consultants and quangos, and see ministers take a 5-10% pay cut.
  • December 7: Mr Wilson backs his party leader's timeframe, but this comes after Martin McGuinness said: "What we're trying to do is ensure that we get the budget right and if it takes time to get the budget right, then so be it".
  • December 8: The SDLP launch their budget plans, joining the UUP, DUP and Sinn Fein who have already released their proposals. Denying it has come to the table late, the SDLP notes that it launched its first set of recommendations for budget reform 18 months previously.
  • December 12: Sinn Fein holds an internal meeting on Sunday, which includes its ministers, where progress on the budget talks are discussed.
  • December 13: There is speculation that a budget deal has been agreed, with the DUP and Sinn Fein the prime movers in the talks.
  • December 14: After news of a deal begins to circulate at Stormont, a meeting of the Budget Review Group is called at Stormont Castle. A subsequent meeting of the Executive is held where Sinn Fein, DUP and Alliance ministers endorse the deal while the UUP and SDLP abstain.
  • December 15: Sammy Wilson tables a budget including nearly £1 billion in revenue raising schemes at the Assembly.

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