Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 11.00am in public session.
2. Briefing by Department of Education officials on the DE Draft Budget 2011-15: Draft Allocations and Savings Proposals
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Mark McNaughton, Director of Finance, and Gillian Upritchard, Finance Division, joined the meeting at 11.13am.
Departmental officials spoke to the Department’s letter to the Committee of 24 January 2011 and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: the lack of the detailed Spending Plans the Committee had requested and why it might be ‘misleading’ to provide this to the Committee; whether this was due to a lack of scenario/option planning earlier in the budget process; the Ministers’ agreement regarding End Year Flexibility and how it would be managed in-year and in future years and whether schools had been informed; the potential additional £800million identified in the Executive’s draft Budget and the Minister’s expectations in that regard; the amount of the anticipated saving flowing from severance/redundancies over the next four years; the increase in spending on Free School Meals (FSM); the additional £200 of DE funding per pre-school place in the private/voluntary sector; whether there was sufficient demand and time for the £25million Voluntary Severance Programme to be taken up in this financial year; how rigid savings proposal figures were for years 2-4 of the Budget period; anticipated levels of FSM expenditure and of job losses; the challenge of preparing a budget breakdown with some 1200 education budget school managers; the viability of schools running deficits with no prospect of improvement; timetable for establishing impact of savings proposals for Arms Length Bodies (ALBs); progress on Convergence and whether the Voluntary Severeance Programme had encouraged progress; whether the Budget would ‘starve’ schools out of existence; whether DE could provide the Committee with an analysis/breakdown of the schools running deficits and what action should and could be taken by DE to address this; the utilisation of Balmoral site/buildings by St Colman’s Primary School and whether this had been factored into the business case for a new school for St Colman’s which was appoved by the Minister in August 2010;
Mr D Hilditch joined the meeting at 11.19 am
Mr J Craig joined the meeting at 11.50 am.
Mrs M O’Neill left the meeting at 12.16 pm
The witnesses left the meeting at 12.50 pm.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.50 pm
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
2 February 2011