The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has set a budget for 2023-24 and introduced legislation to ensure public services can continue to function in the absence of an NI Executive.

Secretary of State and NI party representatives sit around a table, facing the camera.

Secretary of State hosts roundtable discussion with NI party leaders

In a Written Ministerial Statement to Parliament, Mr Heaton-Harris set out the final budget position for the current financial year.

It provides £14.2 billion to be spent by the Northern Ireland Executive, with more than half earmarked for health.

The Government will confirm this budget in legislation if a devolved government is not in place.

Mr Heaton-Harris also introduced the Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill today, which allows current civil servant decision-making arrangements to continue until an Executive is formed.

The Bill also includes new powers for the Secretary of State to direct Northern Ireland departments to provide him with advice or consult on options to raise revenue or deliver sustainable public finances in the ongoing absence of NI Ministers.

Combined, these steps provide funding clarity and ensure governance will continue if an Executive is not restored before the current arrangements expire on 5 June.

The Secretary of State met Northern Ireland’s party leaders today at Hillsborough Castle to provide an update on these points.

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “It should be for locally elected politicians to take this strategic decision-making to transform and modernise NI’s public services.

“However, the approach taken in setting the budget and the provisions included in the Interim Arrangements Bill will ensure important work progresses if an Executive is still not in place.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said it was clear that work needed to happen to get Northern Ireland’s finances onto a sustainable footing. He said:

This situation exists despite the UK Government providing additional funding totalling £7 billion to NI since 2014, on top of extra funding provided through the Barnett formula.

I remain committed to protecting the interests of people in Northern Ireland, and will continue to do everything I can to help the Northern Ireland Parties to work together to make that happen.

The people of Northern Ireland deserve a stable and accountable devolved government that delivers for them.

Notes to the Editor

  • Read the full NI Budget Statement 2023-24 here.
  • More information on the Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill is available here.

NI Budget Statement 2023-24

  • The total amount available for NI Executive spending is £14.2 billion.
  • The consequences of addressing the £660million gap in the 2022-23 financial year has meant that £297 million provided from the UK Reserve was due to be repaid from the 2023-24 budget.
  • Flexibility on the repayment of this amount has been granted by HM Treasury so an additional £297 million can be allocated to departments today. To do this, these allocations commit any future in-year Barnett consequentials. Should this not amount to £297m, the NIO will work with HMT to reallocate funding from previously announced NI funding packages, with the residual to be repaid in 2024-25.
  • NIO officials continue to work with the NI Department of Finance to install a sustainable and strategic approach to public finances, including the development of options for revenue raising.
  • Non-ring fenced resource funding allocations:

    • £7.3bn for Health
    • £2.6bn for Education
    • £1.2bn for Justice
    • £772m for Economy including £1.1m for the Public Service Obligation route from City of Derry Airport to London

Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill

  • Current arrangements for civil service decision-making are due to expire on 5 June.
  • The Bill introduced today will provide for these arrangements to continue until the time an Executive is formed.
  • The additional power this Bill provides for the Secretary of State does not enable the UK Government to direct action on options to raise revenue and increase the sustainability of NI public finances.
  • But the power enables preparatory work to take place in the absence of ministers.
Published 27 April 2023