Northern Ireland

Platform: Fair funding and collective leadership needed to meet challenges says finance minister Caoimhe Archibald

The Sinn Féin minister says ‘demands on our budget far outstrip the funding available’

Finance minister Caoimhe Archibald
Finance minister Caoimhe Archibald

When the Executive was restored, I made a promise along with my ministerial colleagues to roll up the sleeves and get on with the job of improving people’s lives.

I want to build opportunities for everyone so that people can look forward to a future filled with ambition.

As an Executive we are fully committed to providing the best possible public services.

However, there is no escaping that the money we have can’t keep up with demand.

We have to be realistic in terms of what we can do with the existing funding available.

Demands on our budget far outstrip the funding available. For every £1 we have to spend on day-to-day funding for public services we currently have three times as many demands.

Similarly for every £1 we have to spend on building hospitals, schools, sports and community facilities and roads, the demand is one and a half times more what we have available to spend.

Undoubtedly this means difficult decisions will have to be made, and additional funding for one area means less funding for another.

I will continue to fight for more investment in our public services.

The scale of the challenges facing us won’t be fixed by one budget.

My focus is on bringing a budget to the Executive and Assembly before the end of April. Without a budget, departments cannot plan.

That’s not a sustainable or tenable position.

All ministers are passionate about delivering for their areas and for citizens. But at this point, we simply do not have the funding to do everything.

We all recognise the need for transformation and reform. We need to look at options to deliver efficiencies, generate revenue, enhance borrowing powers, and explore the potential for more fiscal powers.

Financial sustainability in the longer term will require brave decisions, collaborative working, and a relentless focus on innovation and efficiency in service delivery.

This can only be achieved through partnership working, a willingness to accept change, to challenge the status quo and to make long term strategic decisions.

That is what an effective, responsible government looks like. It’s a massive challenge and the path ahead isn’t straight or smooth. It is going to take patience and people working together for the greater good.

I have been clear since the Executive was restored that the funding available was not enough to undo the damage inflicted by British government cuts and underfunding.

The public are dealing with rising food, heating and electricity bills

The cost of delivering public services has become more expensive, just like running a home has become more expensive with rising food, heating and electricity bills.

If we are to tackle the serious problems across public services, then how we are funded needs to change. This is a position endorsed by the Independent Fiscal Council.

The financial deal indicates a cliff edge that will lead to the north being funded below the level required. In this scenario, we will not be able to properly fund our public services.

This is a trajectory that I am not willing to accept and have been pressing Treasury hard to ensure our longer-term funding reflects our level of need.

The British government’s lack of investment in public services is having a negative impact on funding for all devolved administrations. We must be provided with adequate funding so we can efficiently and effectively run our public services.

Whether it is around the Executive table or dealing with the Treasury, I will do my very best to deliver for everyone.

:: Caoimhe Archibald is the Stormont finance minister