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Staff parking fees among suggestions to help balance Stormont books

Health staff may have to pay for car parking as part of suggestions to raise more public money

HEALTH and civil service staff could have to pay for car parking as part of suggestions on ways to help balance the north's books.

Although some workers already pay for parking, the Department of Finance said charges could be rolled out across all large health sites if an incoming executive wants to generate revenue - with the potential to raise £1m in 2019-20.

Other options include introducing prescription charges, raising dental fees, charging for day and domiciliary care and reviewing the use of free non-emergency patient transport

The document said health and education need more funding than is available, and "continuing with the same pattern of spend as in previous years is simply unsustainable".

Health funding shortfalls are projected to be between £151-171m in 2018-19 and £265-340m in 2019-20.

The report made a series of suggestions of how money could be found, including potential hikes in rates and Housing Executive rents.

Rates bills have two elements - the district rate set by councils to finance their services and a regional rate which supports the north's public facilities and Stormont departments.

The proposals suggest increasing the regional rate above inflation.

According to the document, households in the north pay much lower rates than their counterparts in Britain.

It said every one per cent increase in the regional rate would cost domestic customers around 19p per week and generate around £7 million.

A five per cent above-inflation increase for domestic customers and a rise in line with inflation for non-domestic customers would raise more than £35 million in 2018-19 and more than £68 million in 2019-20.

The document also suggested a rise in Housing Executive rents - 3% above inflation - which could generate £8 million a year.

And it warned the rise "would need to be part of a longer term multi-annual programme of rent increases stretching further into the future".

It said Housing Executive rents are around 25 per cent below those charged by housing associations.

However, the document warned that housing benefit would also have to increase to above levels forecasted by the executive.

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