Disagreement over draft budget

NI Health Minister budget proposal causes “public furore”

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Michael McGimpsey (pictured) has been accused of causing “a public furore” over the executive’s draft budget.

The Ulster Unionist minister has repeatedly called for an extra £200 million a year to be added to the health budget in order to avoid losing a reported 4,000 jobs over four years in the sector.

But Finance Minister Sammy Wilson told the Finance Committee that the extra funds requested by the health minister could almost wipe out some government departments. The DUP politician said that apart from McGimpsey’s requests most ministers were “playing ball” over budgetary allocations and had “got down to the job”.

And First Minister Peter Robinson has since said that if the executive had more money the health service would not be first in line to get it. He insisted that other government departments had taken a greater financial hit: “The hardest hit at the moment is education, DRD has a very strong case for additional funding, DETI and environment also want more. We are having to deal with £4 billion less.”

Prior to the first minister’s statement, Michael McGimpsey had called claims by some ministers that health was protected as “bogus”. He said: “What we have is a draft budget proposal voted through by three parties of the executive, the DUP, Sinn Fein and the Alliance party, and they are cutting the health budget.

“The health budget is down by 2.4 per cent in real terms after four years, and it still means that all of the extra demands that are coming into the system with an increased population – we’re the fastest growing population in the UK – none of that is accounted for or paid for.”

As Ireland’s Dental magazine went to print, only DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance ministers have backed the draft proposal, which would cut £4bn by the end of 2014-15.

There have been 4,000 responses to a public consultation on the plan, which is due to be voted on, on 14 March.