Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: The staggering sum Stormont paid out on debt interest in the past year?

The Northern Ireland Executive has paid out £74.5m on debt interest in the past year - more than it is spending on the Northern Ireland and Fire Service, it has been revealed.

The figures were revealed by Ulster Unionist finance spokesperson Philip Smith through an Assembly Question.

Mr Smith revealed that the total extent of Executive net debt as of March 31 2016 was £2,051,605,438, with £74.5m paid on interest last year.

He accused the Executive of "financial negligence".

Mr Smith said in a statement: “Through an Assembly Question I have now been able to reveal that the total extent of Executive net debt as of 31 March earlier this year was £2,051,605,438, with £74.5m paid on interest last year.

"That represents more than twice the cost to run the entire Public Prosecution Service, or £5.5m more than it spends on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. The costs of borrowing are only projected to increase as the Executive continues to borrow a further £300m this year."

He continued: "We have by far the largest level of indebtedness of any region in the UK, with almost three times the level of debt per head of population compared to Scotland. The Northern Ireland Executive is incurring such large levels of debt that future generations will struggle just to service the interest payments.

“The Executive cannot continue to infinitely borrow funds in order to conceal their repeated financial negligence. I would just hope that every DUP and Sinn Fein Minister recognise that every pound borrowed today will mean that even more will have to be repaid by future generations.”  

A DoF spokesperson said: “The total interest as outlined in the AQ response relates to both interest on the Executive’s debt as well as interest on local council debt.  The Executive’s interest on RRI borrowing is just over £55m and not £74.5m as stated by Mr Smith.

“The Executive’s use of the RRI borrowing facility has enabled over £2 billion to be invested locally and has provided funding for key infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads  that would simply not have happened without the use of borrowing. The Executive is mindful of the cost of borrowing and will continue to monitor the level of borrowing to ensure that repayments remain affordable.”

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