Finance Minister to make first London trip since March to press Treasury on budget

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said he will visit London for the first time since March to press the Treasury for information to help plan Stormont's budget. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Ryan McAleer

Finance Minister Conor Murphy will seek an urgent meeting with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to discuss additional support for businesses when he travels to London for the first time since March.

The Sinn Féin minister said he intends to make the trip within days as part of a combined effort with his counterparts in Scotland and Wales to press the UK Treasury for more information to help plan Stormont’s finances on the back of the cancellation of the Autumn Budget.

Yesterday Mr Murphy said he would also be seeking a face-to-face meeting with Mr Sunak to press for more financial support for businesses and workers hit by regional restrictions.

The chancellor’s decision to cancel the Autumn Budget has left all three devolved institutions with challenges in developing their individual spending plans.

“We and collectively with Scotland and Wales have asked for much more information than perhaps we would ordinarily be provided with during a comprehensive spending review (CSR),” said Mr Murphy.

“Because the fact the budget is not going ahead, we need much more engagement, much more information.”

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The minister said the executive will need to start setting out its own budget in the coming months.

“We have already scheduled a whole series of meetings with all of the other ministers over the course of October, into November, to talk about the budgetary requirements of each department.

“We have to then go out and consult on a draft budget – we have to legislate for one in early spring time. So the clock’s ticking for us.

“All of that is informed by what’s happening in London.”

Before the pandemic Mr Murphy had primarily dealt with Mr Sunak in his role as chief secretary to the Treasury, prior to his promotion to chancellor in mid-February.

Mr Sunak’s replacement, Steve Barclay, has been the main contact since then.

“My intention is to go over to London hopefully in the next week or two,” said Mr Murphy.

“We have a joint position with Scotland and Wales that we need significant input and discussion and information in around the CSR to try and get certainty.

“We’re pressing for that information as soon as possible.”

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