Agriculture spending slashed by £6 million as NI emergency budget made law

Agriculture has become the biggest loser in the emergency budget for Northern Ireland proposed by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

It sees funding for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) slashed by almost £6 million (€6.7 million).

The budget set aside £192 million (€215 million) of non-ring fenced departmental expenditure for DAERA; down 3% on the £198 million (€221.8 million) allocated for farming in 2016.

Coupled with the affects of inflation, the real cost of the drop is even more severe.

It also comes as the total amount divvied up between the nine departments was up 3.2% (£333.4 million) on the year before.

Expediated bill

The bill was expediated, meaning it went through all three House of Commons stages in one day before it was passed to the Queen today for the final nod.

The bill was given Royal Assent this morning; the final stage of a bill’s passage through parliament before it becomes law.

Last resort

The budget was made as a last resort following almost a year without a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly.

Therefore no budget for 2017-18 had been set before the Assembly ceased to function.

The bill authorises the issue of around £16 billion from the consolidated fund of Northern Ireland, which supersedes the £12 billion available under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Northern Ireland Budget Act 2017 was presented by Secretary James Brokenshire and it was supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and former Defra secretary Elizabeth Truss, among several others.

Civil servants had warned Brokenshire that a budget would have to be put in place in November at the latest.

Under provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 they had been able to spend up to 95% of the budget for 2016-17 during the period since 1 April 2017.

Confidence and supply

Brokenshire also confirmed that £50 million from the £1 billion the Conservative Party agreed with the DUP as part of its confidence and supply agreement following the General Election would make its way to the region in the coming weeks.

However, it’s not yet known if any of this money will be allocated to supporting farming.