The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has warned that they will have no option but to overspend this year as the stalemate between the political parties at Stormont continues. At present there are no sitting politicians to make all the important decisions regarding budgets etc that are vital for all the various government departments in Northern Ireland.
Departments Being Run By Civil Servants
The departments are all being run by civil servants in the absence of any elected politicians, but they do not have the same authority and they have to work within a quite tight budget. The budget, which has been imposed by the Northern Ireland Secretary, will see overall spending fall in all departments by 3.3% in real terms this financial year. Because of this the DfI have stated that they will be looking to save money by reducing road repairs, turning off more street lights and stopping waste water treatment.
The DfI are receiving £523 million per year to spend but claim that they need £691 million per year in operational costs. They have made, and are announcing, cuts to bring this operational figure down, but they believe that any remaining options for cuts cannot lawfully be taken by them alone and so they would require a minister in a restored executive to make the big calls on more budget cuts.
The Department Delivers Essential Frontline Services
Speaking about this issue in an article on the BBC News website,
DfI Permanent Secretary Julie Harrison said: “Around 95% of the Department’s resource budget delivers essential frontline services, the vast majority of which are regulated, statutory or contractually obliged.
“This leaves very limited scope to make the kind of cuts to spending that are required. That challenge has been exacerbated by decisions that had to be taken last year and which cannot be repeated.
“I have had to make difficult decisions to ensure DfI and its delivery partners (DVA, Translink, NI Water, and Waterways Ireland) do everything possible to reduce spending and balance their budgets, while at the same time meeting responsibilities to deliver multiple statutory functions and keep people safe.”
But a Northern Ireland Office spokesman is quoted in the same article as saying:
“The decisions required to live within this budget continue to rest with the Northern Ireland departments,” he said.
“We are clear that we hope NI parties will restore locally elected, accountable and effective devolved government as soon as possible, which is the best way to govern Northern Ireland,”