Schools to get extra cash to access their savings
EXTRA money is to be pumped into education to allow schools to access their savings.
The Department of Finance yesterday confirmed that the Department of Education would receive an additional £14 million.
This is on top of a further £26m awarded in November to address "inescapable" cost pressures.
The overall education budget, announced in July last year, was originally £24m less than the closing 2016/17 budget.
It has been warned that the education system is facing a £350m funding gap by 2019/20 if it does not get more money.
Since 2011, it is estimated that there has been a reduction in the education budget of around £200m in real terms.
Schools that had been stockpiling money now want to use it to avoid making cuts.
It is estimated that more than 600 schools are carrying a surplus in the current financial year. With costs rising and budgets being cut, fewer schools are able to save. Five years ago, there were closer to 900 schools with an end of year surplus.
Of the latest £14m to be awarded, £6m will support special educational needs, while £8m will facilitate access to school surpluses accumulated in prior years.
Elsewhere, the Department for Infrastructure is to receive £9.3m to help tackle a deficit at Translink. A further £8.1m is to be spent on roads maintenance and the procurement of new buses by Translink.
The Department for Communities will get £1.6m to support maintenance of social housing, while the Executive Office will get £400,000 to support infrastructure works as part of the continuing redevelopment of the Ebrington project in Derry.
The reallocation was announced by the Department of Finance which came after some departments had identified "a number of reduced financial requirements".
In November, it was announced that £20m of the £50m funding available to support immediate pressures in health and education from the confidence and supply agreement between the DUP and Conservative Party would be accessed in this year.
The department said the remaining £30m would not be accessed in 2017/18.
Ulster Unionist finance spokesperson Steve Aiken asked whether the remaining money would remain unspent in the absence of an executive.
"Given that health is at breaking point now - with hospitals under increasing pressure – it cannot be the case that this money sits just out of reach because some parties are holding up an executive being formed," he said.