Infrastructure and education main beneficiaries of £150m monitoring round

Ministers agreed the outcome of the January monitoring round at Thursday’s Executive meeting.

David Young
Thursday 20 January 2022 17:58
Translink Metro buses in parked in Belfast City centre. A number of bus services in the Belfast area are to be suspended or diverted following recent attacks on vehicles, Translink has announced (PA)
Translink Metro buses in parked in Belfast City centre. A number of bus services in the Belfast area are to be suspended or diverted following recent attacks on vehicles, Translink has announced (PA)

Infrastructure and education are the main beneficiaries of a £150 million reallocation of Stormont funds agreed by the Executive.

Ministers signed off on the January monitoring round plans at Thursday’s Executive meeting.

The £151.3 million redistribution will see Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon receive £71.8 million, while Education Minister Michelle McIlveen will get £43.8 million.

Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy (PA)

Monitoring rounds take place several times a year to let ministers redistribute unspent monies between departments.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said every department bidding for extra funds was successful.

The additional infrastructure funds will be cover issues such as lost public transport income due to the pandemic, subsidies for bus routes, investment in the A6 road redevelopment, and writing off bad debt from penalty charge notices.

The education funds will address Covid-19 pressures, special educational needs, and a staff voluntary exit scheme.

Other allocations include support for local councils and funding for compensation for those impacted by the recent bird flu outbreak.

Minister McIlveen had faced calls to bid for monitoring round funds to install air filtration systems in the region’s schools as part of efforts to limit Covid-19 transmission.

She didn’t, however, arguing that installing systems in every school would cost at least £40 million and questioning whether evidence of their effectiveness was available to justify that level of investment.

Mr Murphy said £17 million of the monitoring round reallocation would go to support local councils.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen (Liam McBurney/PA)

On education and infrastructure, he said: “Over £40 million will go towards education. Covid has created huge challenges for schools and funding is being provided to help schools pay for substitute teachers and PPE (personal protective equipment).

“It also includes £18.4 million for special educational needs.

“Public transport continues to face reduced passenger numbers and, with that, loss of income. £24 million is being provided to subsidise bus routes along with a further £19.8 million for Translink, including lost income as a result of Covid.

“Recognising the difficulties facing the private bus and coach sector, £4 million will be used to deliver a further financial assistance scheme.”

Other allocations include:

• Department for Communities – £18.2 million for council funding for Covid impacts, de-rating grant and rates support grant

Department of Justice – £12.3 million for the PSNI and Legal Services Agency NI

Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs – £4 million for avian flu impact

• Department of Finance – £800,000 million for the Covid-19 Small Business Top up grant

• NI Audit Office – £400,000 million for building project costs

Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Murphy added: “All bids submitted by departments have been met in full.

“If further bids to meet urgent priorities come forward from departments, further allocations can be made.

“However, given the constrained budget position next year, the Executive does want to carry over funding into the next financial year. The Treasury caps the amount of funding we can carry over.

“Therefore, if we are to avoid surrendering money to the Treasury, it is critical that underspends from departments are kept to a minimum.”

The £151.3 million comprised £146.7 million of resource funding and £4.6 million of capital funding.

A further £31.9 million was allocated across a range of departments for accounting charges relating to depreciation and impairment of assets.

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