Departments told to look at cuts scenarios of up to 12 per cent

The Department of Finance said the scoping exercise was 'for information-gathering purposes only'

MOST Stormont departments have been asked to identify areas for potential spending cuts next year.

The Department of Finance (DoF) has asked six other departments to outline the impact of reductions of 4 per cent, 8 per cent and 12 per cent on their overall spending.

Reflecting how the Stormont executive operated in recent years, health and education are excluded from the scoping exercise, as is the policing budget.

A DoF spokesman said it was normal practice at this time of year for Stormont departments to begin looking at budgets for the next financial year.

"Under normal processes, at this time of the year Northern Ireland Civil Service departments begin budget planning for the next financial year," the spokesman said.

"The Department of Finance has commissioned an information gathering exercise to collect the necessary data that will allow a future executive to make key, informed decisions on a budget for 2018-19 and beyond."

The DoF spokesman said the exercise was "for information-gathering purposes only" and covered a number of scenarios.

"It will be for an incoming executive to make decisions about funding levels and final budgets," the spokesman said.

"Similar to previous budgets it is proposed to provide full protection from reductions for health and welfare reform with some protection for education and PSNI budget."

Last month, Secretary of State James Brokenshire stepped in to reallocate funds in the monitoring round due to the absence of an executive.

If devolution is not restored, the secretary of state will have to pass a regional budget at some point in the autumn. However, Mr Brokenshire remains hopeful that a forthcoming round of talks will resolve Stormont's political impasse.

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