Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: Thursday, 15 November 2007

Ministerial Briefing

15 November 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:
Mr Edwin Poots ) The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Mr Mick Cory )
Mr Colin Jack ) Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Mr Edgar Jardine )

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):
Good Morning, Minister. You and your officials are very welcome. Of course, the Committee is familiar with most of the senior officials at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), because they appear before us on a regular basis. I ask the Minister to address the issues that arise from the draft Budget, the draft Programme for Government, and the draft investment strategy. Over to you, Minister.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Mr Poots):
Good morning. I thank the Chairman and the Committee for this invitation to appear before you to discuss the draft Budget. At the Committee’s request, also in attendance are Edgar Jardine, Colin Jack and Mick Cory, who will assist me in responding to the Committee’s queries.

I must apologise at the outset for the length of my statement, but this is a detailed matter, so I trust that members will bear with me. As members are aware, directly after the Assembly plenary sitting at which they were announced, the draft Budget and associated draft Programme for Government and draft investment strategy were presented for a 10-week consultation. I welcome the opportunity to expand on the detail of those published documents, and I would encourage the Committee to engage in the consultation process.

As members will also be aware, the draft Budget has been prepared in the context of an overall Programme for Government, which includes public service agreement targets and an investment strategy with details of the funds available for capital investment over the next 10 years: 2008-2018.

Before I address the specifics of the DCAL budget and the Programme for Government, members should be aware of the background to public expenditure in Northern Ireland. It is still the case that approximately 92% of departmental expenditure is provided by Her Majesty’s Treasury, through the Barnett formula. Therefore, in overall terms, the outcome for Northern Ireland means that average annual growth in the 2008-2011 period will be just 1·2% in real terms.

Over recent years, there has been a growing consensus that the economy plays a fundamental role in shaping society. The key priority for the Executive is the economy and, therefore, that is the main focus for the allocations in the draft Budget. In order to address that priority, all Departments were required to identify substantial efficiency savings over the comprehensive spending review (CSR) years. DCAL had to reduce its three-year baseline total by £21 million. Against that backdrop, and after the deduction of efficiencies and other savings, I have been able to secure a £46·3 million uplift ¾ a net £24·3 million uplift ¾ in resources over the CSR years. That resource increase, along with the new capital baseline of £233 million in years 1-3 and an indicative £410 million in years 4-10, will allow my Department to make a significant difference in meeting many of its key goals.

I now refer members to the published draft Budget, in particular pages 59-62, which deal specifically with DCAL. Members can see from the narrative at pages 59-61 the impact on Northern Ireland society of the key outcomes that DCAL will deliver over the CSR years. I shall address many of those outcomes as I outline my plans for the specific sectors.

However, I first draw the Committee’s attention to page 62, which deals with current expenditure. The table indicates that the Department’s baseline has reduced between the current year, 2007-08, and the first year of the CSR period, 2008-09. While that is, of course, factually correct, it may give rise to a false impression that a number of the Department’s non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) will suffer a significant reduction in their core funding.

That is not the case. Within the Department’s 2007-08 baseline of £108·322 million, a number of specific and time-bound programmes ended, and therefore had to be deducted from the baseline. Those include the integrated development fund (IDF) of £2·27 million, Executive programme funding (EPF) of £1·467 million, children and young people funding of £0·565 million, and skills and science funding of £1·1 million. That makes a total of £4·851 million to remove from the baseline, plus efficiency savings of £3·559 million. The baseline before CSR additions is £99·361 million. The Department managed to secure an additional £7·9 million over and above that, which brought the DCAL resource to £107·261 million.

I have provided a lot of figures, but I trust that the Committee is able to follow and interpret that information.

Mr McNarry:
Can you repeat the figure that you gave for DCAL’s total resource?

Mr Poots:
The total is £107·261 million. I am happy to repeat all the figures, because I gave a lot of information in a short space of time.

Mr McNarry:
Can the Minister leave a copy of those figures with the Committee?

Mr Poots:
If I cannot leave them today, I will ensure that the Committee have them as quickly as possible. The DCAL resource baseline for 2008-09 is £107·261 million. That is against a baseline of £108·322 million for 2007-08. That is how the figures turn out after the efficiency savings and IDF are taken out, and the additional amounts are added.

I now turn specifically to what the draft Budget means for the arts and creativity sector. The Department has secured an additional £6·75 million for arts and creativity revenue funding over the next three years. That figure is after the removal of the efficiency savings. It is made of £1 million in year 1, an uplift of £1·5 million in year 2 and an uplift of £4·25 million in year 3. In addition, we have secured a significant capital allocation of £32·5 million for arts infrastructure through the investment strategy.

The draft Budget shows that the total funds available for the objectives and spending areas of arts have fallen from £15·7 million in 2007-08 to £14 million in 2008-09. As I mentioned earlier, the reduction in allocation between 2007-08 and 2008-09 has arisen primarily as a result of the removal of the integrated development fund, the Secretary of State’s priority funding packages, and a modest efficiency requirement in respect of the Arts Council. Therefore, the arts funding baseline for 2007-08 commenced at £15·656 million. The integrated development fund money, £1·944 million, was removed from that. The children and young people’s fund made up a further £500,000, and the efficiency savings were £212,000. That leaves a baseline figure of £13 million. The additional arts and creativity revenue funding, to which I referred, gives a figure of £14 million in year 1, £14·5 million in year 2 and £18.25 million in year 3.

I appreciate that many people will be disappointed, as am I, that it has not been possible to completely bridge the gap with the per capita funding of the rest of the UK and of the Republic of Ireland. I assure members that I fought hard to secure the best deal that I could for the arts in a tight-budget situation with many competing priorities. I am sure that the Committee will realise that the additional £6·75 million is significant.

I understand that the Arts Council will still have difficult decisions to make on how it will distribute its funds. That will be challenging.

My Department has been able to demonstrate its strong commitment to the cultural and economical renewal that is generated by investment in the arts infrastructure. The Department is pleased to have secured £32·5 million in capital funds for the CSR years. That comes from a low spending base of just £1·1 million in 2006-07. Planned expenditure in 2007-08 is £10·6 million. Projected allocations across the CSR years are £15·1 million, £8·5 million and £8·9 million. Those funds will enable projects, such as the new metropolitan arts centre, the new Lyric Players Theatre, the Crescent Arts Centre and the north-west cultural challenge funds, to be proactively pursued on the basis that all matched funding is identified.

The precise details of the programme and the projects to be delivered by various bodies, which include the Arts Council, have yet to be finalised. However, I hope that the Committee will agree that, through the draft Budget, the Department will be able to continue to support and strengthen the arts in Northern Ireland, from community and voluntary arts to professional organisations. The Department will seek to enlarge Northern Ireland’s audience and raise its profile through showcasing its art and culture on a world stage.

During the CSR years, the Department has been able to maintain the baseline for museums at a fairly constant level for years 1 and 2, and has added £500,000 in year 3. Additional funding of £1·4 million, £1·7 million and £2·8 million, which totals £5·9 million, will compensate for having to remove approximately £5·3 million of Executive programme funds, integrated development funds and efficiency savings during the three years. The settlement will enable the Department to continue to increase the number of visitors to National Museums Northern Ireland. It will also allow National Museums to proceed with its programme of modernisation. The important role of science and technology education is underpinned by the Department’s ongoing support for W5 and the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium.

The Department has secured £22·15 million during years 1-3 for capital investment for infrastructure. That will be distributed as follows: £4·9 million in the first year; £700,000 in the second year; and £16·6 million in the third year, and will ensure the completion of the major refurbishment of the Ulster Museum. Year 1 will also include receipts of around £4·6 million. The settlement will allow the Department to start to deal with the issue of collections storage and management. In addition, a range of capital maintenance projects will be funded.

The baseline for museums in 2007-08 is £22·593 million. Removed from that are the integrated development funds, which amount to £50,000; skills and science, which is £1·1 million; and efficiency savings, which are £138,000. That pulls the baseline back to £21·305 million. The Department has added £1·361 million, which brings us back up to £22·666 million, representing a modest increase in year 1.

The opening baseline for year 2 is £21·443 million. Efficiency savings of £588,000 will be removed, which will pull the baseline back to £20·855 million. The Department will add £1·704 million, which will take the baseline back to £22·559 million.

In year 3, the opening baseline is £21·443 million. Efficiency savings of £1·041 million will be taken out of that. The Department will add £2·8 million, which pulls us back to £23·202 million. Again, that will lead to an increase in spending on museums, albeit a modest one.

The proposed resource budget provides an increase of £8,250,000 for the Library Service in years 1-3, following the removal of £3,960,000 in efficiencies and Executive programme funds. That settlement will enable the establishment of a new Northern Ireland library authority from April 2009, which will be subject to the Assembly’s approval of the draft legislation that is currently being scrutinised by the Committee.

The library authority will be the first organisation of its kind in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the first library service run by a non-departmental public body that works directly for the Government. A single library authority has a number of advantages in ensuring the best quality of service to the public. It will provide: greater capacity to achieve equity of provision across Northern Ireland; the transmission of best practice; clear lines of accountability to one Department; an improved basis for a clear identity in the service and promotion of its values; a central focus for forging strong partnerships with other providers; greater efficiencies from regional-level planning and implementation; and economies of scale after moving to one delivery body from five.

The Committee is considering the Libraries Bill, and my Department and I are working to resolve the Committee’s concerns. The Department looks forward to receiving the Committee’s report.

The library baseline for 2007-08 began at £31,073,000. The removal of about £10,000 of IDF, £267,000 of Executive programme funding and £281,000 of efficiency savings meant that £30,515,000 was left. The Department is adding £1,250,000 to that, which brings the total up to £31,765,000 — an increase of nearly £700,000.

The opening baseline for 2009-10 is £30,796,000. Again, after efficiencies of £1,334,000 are removed, and £3,000,000 is added, the resulting baseline figure is £32,462,000.

The opening baseline for 2010-11 is £30,796,000. After efficiencies of £2,065,000 are removed, and a CSR increase of £4,000,000 is added, the total is £32,731,000. The libraries funding for the CSR years totals £31,000,000 capital required to continue the modernisation of the public-service facilities — including modern multi-functional facilities — and will deliver new libraries in a number of locations across Northern Ireland, as well as improving facilities.

The libraries budget requires challenging efficiencies to be achieved, which will largely be delivered through the rationalisation of the five library services to one, and through the streamlining of internal services, systems and processes. The budget also includes additional funding that will be prioritised to deliver services based on local need. As envisaged in the policy framework ‘Delivering Tomorrow’s Libraries’ I want to see more libraries opening outside of normal working hours to enable more people to benefit from the diverse range of services that our vibrant library community delivers. Currently, all libraries in Northern Ireland provide free Internet access; this budget will enable the further development of computer services.

This is a challenging budget for libraries, which requires adhering to efficiencies and improving service at the same time.

There was a useful debate in the House about sport on Tuesday. I now refer to page 62 of the draft Budget. The 2007-08 baseline for sport is £10,963,000 ¾ £115,000 of IDF, £1,200,000 of Executive programme funding, £65,000 of children and young people’s funding, and £1·1 million of skills and science funding will be removed. That pulls our baseline back to £9·583 million. There are efficiency savings of £2·26 million. Therefore, the baseline before CSR additions is £7·321 million. We then add an additional £1·564 million, which pulls it back to £8·885 million. In addition to the £2·26 million over 2009-10 and 2010-11, a further £4·5 million of efficiencies have been removed. Those additional efficiencies are predominately made up of the removal of further Executive programme funding and the soccer strategy provision. The EPF will not carry forward beyond 2007-08, and the soccer strategy resource will have a minimal budget beyond 2008 to complete the £8 million that was promised by Government.

With that baseline of approximately £34 million during the CSR years, I intend to ensure that many of the key actions that were set out in the draft strategy for sport and physical recreation are enhanced.

During my address to the Assembly on Tuesday 13 November, I highlighted some of my key targets, which included increased participation in sport, particularly of children and people with disabilities; a substantial modernisation of our sporting and recreational infrastructure; and stopping the decline in achievement of Northern Ireland at major competitions.

I specifically set out stretching, yet achievable, targets in the draft Programme for Government regarding participation and investment. As I also said to the Assembly on Tuesday, I recognise that the draft strategy for sport comes with a hefty price tag. It is estimated that its full implementation would require investment of around £200 million over the next 10 years. However, I do not believe that any organisation has the capacity to single-handedly meet the cost of that delivery. Therefore, a genuine partnership approach will be required.

In respect of infrastructure investment, we have secured £112 million for 2008-09 and 2010-11 for investment in the physical infrastructure for delivering sports. That level of funding will allow me to consider the next stages for the emerging proposals for a new multi-sports stadium. It will also permit the delivery of important elements of the elite sports facilities programme. As I have previously mentioned, the level of funding available to sports is subject to the normal budgetary process, including other compliance priorities, even in my own Department.

I remain hopeful that, following the consultation programme, the final CSR settlement will allow Government to contribute significantly to a new era for sport in Northern Ireland. However, we have been able to supplement the baseline with additional year 2 and year 3 funding, which totals £10 million. That means that, by year 3, recurring spending on sport will be in excess of £14 million, which is 27% more than 2007-08.

I appreciate that I have been speaking for some time now, and I will close by highlighting a few of our other priorities. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has recently announced that it has secured new, modern and fit-for-purpose accommodation. In the draft Budget, I have been able to secure an additional £5·1 million over the CSR period to meet the additional revenue costs of that new accommodation. With that additional funding, I will be able to commence a pilot programme to digitise and make many of our important public collections available online.

Regarding inland waterways and fisheries, we have been able to provide for the consolidation of costs associated with bringing the Fisheries Conservancy Board into the Department, which is something that we all want. That is, of course, predicated upon the appropriate legislative frameworks being in place.

In respect of languages, the Ulster-Scots Agency will receive an additional £3 million over the next three years in accordance with the commitments given at St Andrews. Allocations will equate to £750,000 in 2008-09; £1 million in 2009-10; and £1·25 million in 2010-11, on top of the agency’s baseline.

The Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF), which commenced in June 2005 and was given a commitment that it would receive £12 million, was allocated £3 million per annum for each of the four financial years from 2005 to 2009.

We have ensured that the commitment to provide that funding until March 2009 will be honoured. In the draft budget for the CSR period, there is still revision for one year of previously announced funding and resourcing to continue at its present level until March 2009. Unfortunately, no additional funding was secured in the draft Budget that was agreed by the Executive and published on the 25 October.

In closing, no Minister will have been fully satisfied with the budget afforded them, and I am no different. Relatively small amounts of additional funding can make a big difference in a Department such as DCAL. The draft Budget and Programme for Government will present many challenges, particularly to the budgets that are charged with delivery. On the capital investment allocation, the Department has the funding available to make a significant difference, particularly to the arts and cultural infrastructure. Again, the key challenge is to ensure timely and appropriate delivery of projects.

After the deduction of baseline efficiencies and programme changes, the Department’s spending power will increase over the CSR period. Committee members will be aware that the consultation process ends on 4 January 2008, and I encourage you to support me in that process.

The Chairperson:
A vast area has been covered by the Minster’s presentation, and I anticipate that, after the Committee meeting, members will wish to write with questions further to this morning’s engagement.

Mr McNarry:
With respect to you, Minister, most of those figures went over my head, although we were already aware of some of them. The manner of the presentation was unfortunate, and perhaps we could learn from that so that, next time, we can have some of the details in advance. We now must read it all over again and go through it, so I hope that you will make some allowances for that.

How confident are you that the draft Budget proposals allow you to deliver the priorities of your Department? What regrets do you have concerning items that are not sufficiently funded in the Budget? What contingencies are built into your budget and, in real cash terms, how much new money has the Department received for 2008-09, compared to 2007-08? Do you have any opportunities to dispose of assets to release cash? Finally, underspends indicate either good or bad management. What mechanisms have you put in place to ensure that underspends are minimised?

Mr Poots:
That is a series of questions.

Mr McNarry:
I apologise that I could not give them to you in advance.

Mr Poots:
That is not a problem. First, in respect of priorities, the Budget is good for us in terms of recurrent expenditure in sport, because we will get additional money, particularly in the third year, in spite of losing various elements of funding. The Budget has been good for us in respect of capital spending on arts, but has been weaker for recurrent funding in arts, and capital in sports. The rest of the Department has remained relatively static, with modest increases generally.

At one point, we faced the real risk of the forced closure of ¾ or the removal of the funding for ¾ W5, which attracts the second-highest number of visitors, after the Giant’s Causeway. We faced the possibility of not having the capacity to fund the Armagh Observatory, and we were up against certain difficult scenarios during the early part of the Budget.

In arts, we will lose the IDF money. A number of the funds have been ongoing for a number of years, and were due to come to an end. Ultimately, projects such as Re-imaging Communities were delivered by that funding, and were due to come to an end.

The baseline for the Arts Council will go up, which is important. It is a modest increase, but other sectors of the arts will lose money as a consequence of the ending of the children and young people’s element of the integrated development fund.

Many of the efficiencies that will have to be made will not affect front-line services, because they will be concentrated on the administration side. Efficiencies with respect to costs are not necessarily bad. In some instances, they will hit front-line services; however, as far as possible, we will seek to limit the impact of efficiencies on such services.

The Department has a good spending record. It can normally spend 98·5% to 99% of its budget, so there is usually no hand-back situation. The only weakness, to be honest, is in capital spending. We have identified a site for the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and I believe that the planning application has been lodged.

Mr Edgar Jardine (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
It is due to be lodged at the beginning of December.

Mr Poots:
We are seeking a six-month turnaround, so we are confident that we can deliver a building for PRONI. Planning issues were raised about the Ulster Museum, which held that project back. Those were overcome, however, and work has now commenced. The builder, David Patton, has a very good record of delivering on time. The Department had not previously spent heavily on capital, but we are now moving towards spending a lot of money on capital. Many of the teething difficulties that we encountered have been overcome and we can learn from some of those experiences.

We have secured £35 million of the £53 million for the elite sports facilities. We have yet to secure the remaining £18 million. I will be up front with the Committee on all of those matters. Those facilities can be delivered well on time, because it is responsibility of the local authorities to deliver them, in conjunction with the Department. There are two mechanisms that we can use to get more money for those projects. Ed Vernon is compiling a report on, and an analysis of, all Government land, including our land. We do have property that may have some potential for disposal. That will be discussed with Ed Vernon and with the Committee in due course. There is potential for the release of some property to produce capital for what we see as key priorities. I do not have a particular issue with that.

If capital money is not spent, it goes back to HM Treasury. Therefore, any Department that identifies difficulties in meeting its spending must alert the Department of Finance and Personnel at the earliest opportunity. I am minded to proceed with the spending of £53 million on elite facilities, with the local authorities. Other Departments will struggle to meet all of their commitments. I do not believe that £18 million will be a significant amount of money to claw back from some of those other Departments to ensure that those sports facilities can be delivered.

Furthermore, the offer that was made for the elite facilities projects was up to 75% of the total. I want that offer to be put into the application process, based on its value for money. It is important that we sweat the £53 million in order to get a greater return on it than 25%. I want to see the people who are bidding for elite facilities funding come in with bids substantially under the 75% threshold that they might have achieved.

Mr McNarry:
You are getting involved in pretty high-wire stuff. I know that circuses are included in your remit, but is that not a high-wire endeavour?

Mr Poots:
I do not think that it is a high-wire endeavour; it is making the best use of the resources available. Ultimately, if we have £53 million, and we get 75% but do not get value for money, that will reduce the number of projects that we can deliver. I want to deliver more projects, not fewer. If others are satisfied that that can be done — and can meet that target — we can deliver a greater level of capital assets for those elite facilities, and reap the ongoing benefits for many years.

The Chairperson:
David, have any of the issues that you wished to raise not been addressed so far?

Mr McNarry:
The issue of new money has not been covered. The Minister said earlier that he might have lands to dispose of. It is worthwhile mentioning the site at Crossnacreevy. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development needs £90 million and intends to sell off lands worth £200 million. I asked her where the other £110 million would go. It will not go to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; it will go back into the pot.

How does the Minister plan to retain his money if he sells off land? Must it be sold off against a project, or can it be sold off and kept?

Mr Poots:
An example of an obvious sale that will take place is the current Public Record Office of Northern Ireland site. We are building a new Public Record Office headquarters, and the money that we receive from the income of the sale of the old building will be offset against the new building. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure does not have huge land banks, compared to other Departments. However, we have some areas that may introduce modest incomes, with the potential for one site to provide a larger income.

Mr McNarry:
The Committee is concerned that land owned by the Department could be sold off and, with no disrespect, some other Department may get the benefit of that money.

Mr Poots:
Ultimately, my Department could benefit from the £110 million surplus at Crossnacreevy.

Mr McNarry:
I would not bet on it.

Mr Poots:
We can certainly bid for it.

Mr P Ramsey:
I welcome the Minister and his officials. He referred to the bid that he made to the Department of Finance and Personnel under the comprehensive spending review process. Which of those bids is intended to be funded? We have written to the Minister about that, but have still not got a response. Which of the bids that have been submitted will receive funding?

Mr Poots:
We submitted our bids and were then given an allocation, and we have to divide up that allocation. The Department of Finance and Personnel may have indicated its own preferences, but we have had to prioritise, within those preferences. For example, to secure funding for the arts, we have had to take money from other areas that the Department of Finance and Personnel had provided for. The arts would clearly have been in deficit, which I deemed an unacceptable situation.

We have to prioritise our budgetary spending. My aim, and that of the Committee, is to increase our budget — if that is possible — and then seek to identify the Department’s most pressing needs. We have done our best to meet the pressing needs, and we have done our best to identify areas for some growth.

Mr Jardine:
I have a comment on Mr McNarry’s question about the overall picture. We were looking at a decline in our baseline of £21 million at the start of the process, through efficiency savings, and the taking back of the Executive programme funds, which would have been very difficult to handle. Against that, the Minister secured just over £46 million over the three years. He secured a net increase of around £24 million over the three years of the Budget, in round terms. As the Minister said, the Department of Finance and Personnel has given us discretion to use the money in areas that we deem priorities. There will also be consultation with the various sectors as to how they will handle their allocation.

Mr P Ramsey:
Minister, there are two areas on which I want to concentrate. You have made it clear that there is a substantial increase in funding for the arts. The Secretary of State announced the North West Challenge Fund in Derry two years ago. Why is that coming out of next year’s Budget when all of that money was ring-fenced previously?

All of the capital projects that you referred to, such as the Lyric Theatre, have been ring-fenced from previous years. There is no credibility, Minister, in coming to the Committee with a budget that the Secretary of State announced two years ago, particularly the £4·1 million that has gone to the challenge fund in Derry. I do not understand that. It gives the false impression that the arts have been given a gift this year. There is no gift at all.

Mr Poots:
Everything goes back into the round, Pat. No one can say that they have secured a budget that cannot be touched. The Department of Finance and Personnel can take any of that money back.

The capital spend has been secured for the North West Challenge Fund, which Pat Ramsey has a particular interest in. No money will be taken away from that. The £4 million that was announced remains, and all of that money will be distributed. If any money were to be removed from the North West Challenge Fund, it would come from the funding for recurrent expenditure, but the capital funding would remain.

Mr P Ramsey:
How much of the increase in capital for the arts is pure, clean money, rather than money that has already been committed and ring-fenced?

Mr Poots:
All the money comes from the Budget. We started with a baseline for capital, and we had to bid for everything. Some funding areas were identified; for example, the Lyric Theatre and the new metropolitan arts centre. The Department will be able to complete those projects because there is adequate match funding, which might not have been the case before. Match funding must be raised, and the Lyric has gone a long way towards reaching its targets. I understand that the theatre is at a very detailed stage of negotiation with Belfast City Council, on completion of which my Department can finish the process and make up the shortfall. Projects for which incomplete funding had previously been set aside will be able to go ahead.

Mr P Ramsey:
I wish to turn to sport, which the Minister referred to. I understand that everyone wants to get their tuppence-worth in. Perhaps we need to have another meeting with the Minister.

I met the Minister privately, and I referred to the targets for sport as outlined in last Tuesday’s Assembly debate. DCAL cites targets, such as those for access for young people, but will they be realised? I understand that, unless a corresponding level of funding is provided up front, DCAL will fail abysmally to achieve those targets.

Minister, there are areas that you wish to support, such as sports-stadium work across Northern Ireland, whether for soccer, Gaelic or rugby. However, nothing in the departmental budget will give any comfort to all those groups that are achieving levels of activity and access for young people to enable them to participate in sport, health and well-being. There are no capital moneys for infrastructure for community sport, although it is clear — and someone can correct me if I am wrong — that that is where we see the major thrust of participation and where we will hit targets for participation of young people.

What is happening, Minister? You referred to moneys from the Vernon asset group — an unknown quantity of magic funding. The Executive has made it clear that any additional moneys and surplus land should be prioritised for social and affordable housing. Like other Members, the Committee is unclear about what Ed Vernon will bring to the table. Perhaps you will inform the Committee about that later. Will that supplement only the elite facilities? Will other money be put on the table to develop the community sports that Sport Northern Ireland has been developing continuously and successfully over recent years?

It is hard to discuss sport without identifying specific projects, but, for example, there are modernisation programmes for Ulster Rugby and the GAA across Northern Ireland. Minister, you have met the GAA; you have heard their presentation and seen their targets. You have seen how well they are meeting all the priorities of Government.

If the current budget continues, after March there will be serious redundancies in rugby and GAA — upwards of 15 redundancies in each sport. What can you tell those groups that are doing successful work on behalf of Government? Are you going to tell people that the work that they have done has disappeared, and likewise so has all the capacity that they have created with regard to the issues of suicide, antisocial behaviour, health, well-being and obesity? Who will take up the cudgel for those groups?

I see that Colin Jack is here, and he will know about the creative learning centres in Derry and Belfast. The Protestant community is deriving the greatest benefit from the centre in Belfast. The children’s fund provides those centres with, I believe, 50% of their funding. The other 50% was provided by the Department for Social Development through its Renewing Communities programme.

The Chairperson:
Pat, please finish your question.

Mr P Ramsey:
I am trying my best, Chairman.

The Chairperson:
I will assist you in a wee minute, if I have to.

Mr P Ramsey:
Those groups are involved in huge projects that are making a difference in communities, particularly within the Protestant community, where they are creating a confidence and a capacity that, perhaps, did not exist before. Are we going to tell those groups to forget about it, to make everyone redundant, and start afresh? We cannot allow that to happen.

Mr Poots:
As it stands, the 2007-08 baseline figure for sport is £10·963 million. We remove the efficiencies, IDF, Executive programme fund and so on. However, in 2010-11, we reach £14·5 million. So, when everything that has to be removed is removed, there will be a £3·5 million uplift in current expenditure on sport over three years. That is good news for sport.

The elite facilities are a priority for me. Money will continue to be provided for the safe-stadiums programme and the soccer strategy, so there will be improvements to stadiums. After 2011, we will have to bid again for further money.

Mr P Ramsey:
How much has been earmarked for sports stadiums?

Mr Poots:
There was a fund of £13 million for the safe-stadiums programme, and much of that has already been spent.

Mr Mick Cory (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
In respect of the allocation for the next three years, we will have to consider the priorities within the sector and determine exactly how that money will be spent. We will have to consider priorities in respect of elite facilities and the safety-of-sports-grounds programme, which has a legislative base. To date, the spend has not been as good as it might have been. Many of the grounds still require work.

Mr Poots:
That money is still there, is it not?

Mr Cory:
No; it was re-bid for, and is part of the new CSR for the years going forward —

Mr P Ramsey:
So it is not there?

Mr Cory:
It is not there.

Mr P Ramsey:
What is the point of that? I agree that elite facilities should be prioritised, but the commitment was to provide £53 million for the competition, so we will now have to have rejig the competition rules. That has been humiliating for DCAL. Some 13 projects reached a certain level and have been shortlisted, but now we are telling those involved in the projects that, by the way, the rules are now changing. We will have to tell them that they will not now get 75% capital grant aid; they will get only 60%. Instead of 10 projects being selected, only three will be. I do not see how we will have the investment and capital to allow those projects to commence in time for the Olympic Games in 2012.

Mr Poots:
We have not changed the rules, because the rules stated that up to 75% of aid would be made available. We are saying that value for money will be the key factor in the application process and bidding process. It is for applicants to assess whether their bid should be for 50% or 60% or the full 75%. It is for each applicant to make that decision, but value for money will be a key factor in the process.

Mr P Ramsey:
Minister, no group will ask for 50% funding if it knows that 75% is available.

Lord Browne:
I will endeavour to be brief. Minister, I welcome you. Compared to the current budget, there appears to be a loss of 1% in the resource budget for 2008-09. What impact will that have on the Department?

The Minister mentioned that he wished to increase the number of children and young people participating in sport by 2011. In particular, he wants a third of disabled people to be taking part in sport by 2011. I am sure that the Minister is aware that, in 2002-03, Disability Sports Northern Ireland almost went out of existence because of lack of funding. It had to pull many of its programmes and short funding was provided by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Disability Sports Northern Ireland was successful in securing funds from Sport Northern Ireland for three years. How many young people and children are there in Northern Ireland? How are those terms defined? How many of them suffer from disabilities? How do you intend to use that funding to increase the level of uptake among the disabled to one third?

Mr Poots:
Year 1 is, obviously, a tight year. We hope to deliver efficiencies in year 1 that will still allow delivery of front-line services as at present and without there being any loss of services. Year 2 is modestly better, and in year 3 there will be substantial gains. There is a strong uplift in year 3. In years 1 and 2, we deliver the efficiencies, and there will be a modest increase in services. In year 3, the funding released will enable a significant improvement in funding.

Sport Northern Ireland will take the lead in respect of children and young people with disabilities. It will identify how best to use that funding, and resources will increase significantly. Through work that has been done so far, we are aware that children from disadvantaged areas and children with disabilities do not participate in sport as much as they should. Addressing those difficulties are key priorities for us.

Mr D Bradley:
I have had a quick glance at the figures. A little over half of the departmental budget will be spent on libraries and museums. That is almost twice the amount that will be spent on sport and the arts. In view of the debate in the Chamber on Tuesday, when Members referred to the huge benefits that sport brings to communities and to the population, and to the cross-community aspects of sport, an observer might think the budget lopsided, in that it hugely favours museums and libraries over arts and sports. Why is there not a better balance?

The Minister mentioned that an extra £3 million would be spent on Ulster Scots in response to obligations in the St Andrews Agreement. That agreement also contained obligations in respect of the Irish language, over and above an Irish language Act. Are those obligations reflected in the budget?

Mr Poots:
Virtually all library and museum services are delivered by Government. There is no scope for volunteering within libraries and museums. The number of people engaged in volunteering in sport and the arts was one of the aspects on which I placed particular focus. Government could never supply sufficient funds to pay all of those volunteers. People are engaged in sport and the arts because they love them. Many core services are delivered, in the main, by volunteering, which the Department supplements. Both museums and libraries provide a key service, but the level of volunteering in sport and the arts could never be achieved in either of those sectors. That is the main difference.

There has been a major challenge in respect of spending on languages. Traditionally, there has been a greater level of spending on the Irish language than on Ulster Scots. We have been challenged to close that gap. The Department encourages those involved in Ulster-Scots culture to grow that sector apace and catch up; however, there is no point in throwing money at it that could be usefully spent elsewhere. There is a level of growth that can be used properly in delivery.

The money that Foras na Gaeilge has is secured. The Irish Language Broadcasting Fund will run until March 2009, and we bid twice for that. I also raised with the Executive that there was not a soft landing for ILBF after March 2009, so those issues have been raised, but we did not receive the funding through the Budget process.

Mr D Bradley:
The St Andrews Agreement includes an obligation on the Executive to bring forward a strategy for the development of Irish. Where is that reflected in the budget?

Mr Poots:
The Department does not have an issue about bringing forward a strategy for the Irish language, and that would probably be delivered through Foras na Gaeilge, because that is the body that has been established for that.

Mr Ramsey posed a question about the number of people employed by Foras na Gaeilge at a previous meeting. I was assured at the last North/South language body meeting that those positions will be filled within the current budget that is available to it.

The Irish Government provided 75% of the funding for Foras na Gaeilge, and the Assembly provided 25%, which is somewhere over £3 million, as compared to the £10 million or £11 million from the Irish Government, but around 40% of the spend of that body actually takes place in Northern Ireland. That represents a substantial benefit — we are putting in 25%, and we are getting 40% out. There is a substantially greater spend in Northern Ireland than £3 million on the Irish language. In reality, Foras na Gaeilge probably spends closer to £5 million.

There will still be a difference between the spending on the Ulster-Scots language and culture and the spending on the Irish language at the end of the Budget period, although the gap may have tightened. The Department will continue to work on and develop the strategy for the protection and enhancement of the Irish language. That is part of its role, and we will ensure that that role is fulfilled.

Mr K Robinson:
After Pat Ramsey’s succinct question, I will be at least as succinct.

Thank you, Minister, for coming along and blinding us with all those figures. We can take them home and do our homework when we, hopefully, get out of here early.

I particularly want to draw attention to the £21 million that went to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland — it is good to see that. Given the obvious tourist potential of PRONI, and given the new location at the Titanic Quarter, immediately opposite the berth for the liners coming into Belfast, which will be absolutely packed with American tourists, is it possible to get some extra money in there? I was thinking that the underspends that occur from time to time could be used to try to refine even further that potential. There is real money from America literally landing on our doorstep and we can tap into that and we can get our revenue stream back almost immediately, which will help the overall Budget. Has any thought been given to putting some underspend into that area?

Mr Poots:
The Public Record Office is one of the good-news stories of the Budget. The new premises will be developed, and they are very impressive, fit for purpose, excellent for the staff that work in them, and at a very suitable location. I know that there are a number of good locations, but the new headquarters are in a particularly suitable location in respect of tapping into the tourist potential. There is going to be huge growth in the Titanic Quarter and in employment in that area, and PRONI represents a real opportunity for that area and for the development of Belfast, in particular, but also the overall Northern Ireland economy.

We have identified additional money, which will go into the digitisation of records to make them more easily accessible. You are absolutely right about the huge tourist potential. At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Public Record Office marquee was continually full, and there was a queue of people who wanted to discover their roots. We must develop and work on that area, and encourage more people to come to Northern Ireland to investigate their roots, and visit the towns and villages where their families originally came from. That would benefit all of Northern Ireland, not just Belfast.

Mr K Robinson:
I was hoping that extra funding could be found for refining that process. It is one thing to arrive in Belfast at the dock and see the Public Record Office, but the opportunity to use it fruitfully is very limited in the timescale within which the visitors will be here. Is there potential for outreach whereby, when folk arrive, there is already a programme to get them in, find out the background information they need, and steer them to spend money, perhaps for Pat up in Londonderry.

Mr Poots:
There is £5.1 million to cover the additional cost of the move to the new accommodation and to pilot some digitisation schemes.

Mr Jardine:
Those points are very well made, not least about the capacity for revenue streams through the Public Record Office, which is not really the case at the moment. As the Minister has said, the digitisation of the catalogues will allow for much greater potential for value to be added and for charging for resources. The outreach programme is a critical part of PRONI’s work, even at the moment. The new premises create the opportunity for that work to be developed further.

Mr Shannon:
Minister, it is good to have you here. First, I wish to ask a question about a matter that was touched on in the Chamber on Tuesday, namely the 2012 Olympic Games. The Committee voiced concerns last week, which I reiterate, about the lasting legacy that will remain when the Olympic Games are over. We are keen to find out what that legacy will be.

Minister, in your letter of 9 November you referred to investment in building infrastructure. You referred to a sum of £110 million for sports facilities for 2011 and £119 million for culture infrastructure through a programme of capital projects. We are keen to ascertain whether that investment money is there.

Will the necessary allocation of money for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics be available through the draft Budget? Will that be used? What does the Minister believe the lasting legacy that I referred to will be? In particular, will that lasting legacy be something that everyone in the Province can benefit from? It must not be only, with respect, Londonderry or Belfast that benefits from that legacy. That legacy must benefit the whole of the Province.

Mr McNarry:
Especially Newtownards.

Mr Shannon:
My second question is about underspend, which Ken mentioned. During the past year, there has been quite a significant underspend in the arts sector, in the Sports Council and in Waterways Ireland. Minister, you mentioned that you intend to spend 98% or 99% of your moneys. Can the underspend of the past year be ploughed back and used this year?

The visits of cruise ships and American tourists create great benefits, which can be developed. Those benefits spin out everywhere. In the area that I represent, visitors from cruise ships come down to Greyabbey and down the Ards Peninsula to the Newtownards area.

Mr Poots:
I thank Mr Shannon for his questions. In respect of the Olympics, the development of facilities will be decided on the basis of the quality of the applications. Therefore, there is not £10 million for the west of the Province; £10 million for the north; £10 million for the south, £10 million for the east, and £10 million for Belfast. That matter is decided on the quality of the applications that are received, and the decisions will be made in favour of the best-quality applications. As I indicated, value for money is one of the criteria and one of the weighting factors in considering those applications.

As for the lasting legacy of the Olympics, I believe that the more assets we can get on the ground, the stronger will be the lasting legacy. That will cover a great number of sports and disciplines. We shall be examining the issue of the legacy trust that is being developed for the Olympics. There is also some money to be raised from the sell-off of land after the event is over.

I understand that land values have increased since work began on the Olympic Games venues. Therefore, I trust that the claw-back will be greater than what was suggested initially, and that we will be given some of that money. We have submitted a bid directly to HM Treasury for £53 million for the elite facilities, aside from what has been secured within the Department. Even if we get nothing, at least we will have tried. If we do get something, it will be a boost to Northern Ireland’s economy.

That bid was submitted on the basis that, when the Olympics Games were secured, they were not subject to the Barnett formula. Normally, when a policy in health or education, for example, is devised by Government, and they decide to spend £2 billion extra across the United Kingdom, we get our portion of it by means of the Barnett formula. This time, we did not get our portion through the Barnett formula. All of the regions have suffered as a consequence. We feel that we are entitled to bid for £53 million, directly to HM Treasury.

Mr Shannon:
When will a map be available of where the elite facilities for the Olympics are to be located in the Province so that we can have some idea of where the beneficiaries of that fantastic amount of money will be?

Mr Poots:
It is unfortunate that, because of the geography of Northern Ireland, a limited number of applications came from the west of the Province. Unfortunately, a particularly good scheme fell in Londonderry as a result of circumstances beyond our control. Mr Ramsey knows about that issue. That was not the fault of Sport NI. The bids come, largely, from the east of the Bann, starting in Coleraine and moving towards Belfast and Ballyholme. I do not think that Strangford has any bids —

Mr Shannon:
I believe that work on a bid fell at the first hurdle.

Mr Poots:
However, you might be able to go yachting at Ballyholme.

Mr Shannon:
That would be great. [Laughter.]

Mr Poots:
David Simpson claims that the watersport facility is the main project west of the River Bann — it is about 300 metres west of the River Bann. There are bids down to Newry. The ring travels from Newry to Coleraine, around the eastern side of Lough Neagh. The geographical situation is unfortunate. However, one can only distribute funds if applications are submitted.

Mr McCausland:
I appreciate the suggestion that we be given full versions of the figures in advance. That may go against the longstanding Civil Service policy of: “Tell them as little as possible as late as possible, and keep them confused on the way”.

Mr Brolly:
Yes, Minister.

Mr McCausland:
We have general figures, according to sector. Therefore, for example, there is £14 million for the arts sector. I have a query about year-3 spending in the arts sector, for which the Minister mentioned the figure of £18·25 million. However, in one of the papers that the Committee received, the figure was £17·3 million. Has some extra money been added for year 3?

Mr Colin Jack (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
The figure of £17·3 million is correct. That is the figure that the Minister quoted.

Mr McNarry:
Do no accuse him of misleading the Committee, for goodness sake, or you will be in big trouble.

Mr Poots:
The figure is £13 million, plus an additional £4·25 million in year 3. Therefore, the figure is £17·25 million.

Mr McCausland:
I apologise; I misheard the figure. I thought that it was £18·25 million. Is there some way of providing the Committee with a breakdown of how that money will be allocated ¾ how much goes to the Arts Council, etc? If we cannot see more detailed figures, it is difficult to ascertain the impact of proposed spending.

Mr Jack:
We cannot provide a precise breakdown at this stage. If the pattern of the current year were followed, we would expect that approximately £11 million would go to the Arts Council. Other funding from that budget will go to organisations such as Northern Ireland Screen, Arts and Business, and to organisations such as the creative learning centres.

An extra £1 million has been secured over and above the comparable baseline for last year. We expect that half of that money will go to the Arts Council and the other half will go to other organisations.

Mr McCausland:
It would be helpful if a form of words were produced that allowed for some flexibility. I acknowledge the fact that we are still at the draft stage, but it would be helpful to know that Northern Ireland Screen and other organisations will benefit from the £11 million allocation.

Mr Poots:
We could provide the Committee with the historical spend, which may be useful. It is all up for negotiation, and key projects must be identified.

Mr McCausland:
Having declared an interest as chairperson of the library committee of the Belfast Education and Library Board, I was pleased to hear that more money has been made available for libraries. However, I find it difficult to understand why the budget allocation for the Belfast board next year amounts to a 15% cut. Over the past four years, cuts have amounted to 30%.

Mr Poots:
The problems that Belfast Education and Library Board faces relate to a change in the historical funding mechanism. That mechanism probably spreads the money across the library boards differently. Other library boards may have suggested that Belfast had an unfair advantage in the past, but it is not for me to get into that.

Mr Jack:
A new funding formula was introduced under ‘Delivering Tomorrow’s Libraries’. That still leaves the Belfast board with a higher level of funding per head of population than other boards. However, that is in recognition of the problems of social disadvantage in Belfast. The funding had been significantly higher, but there has been a change in population, which is taken into account in the formula. Therefore, some funding has been removed as a result of the formula that is used.

Mr McCausland:
The funding mechanism has had a significant impact. Will consideration be given to the fact that we are faced with a cut of 15% and the fact that the single library authority will not be introduced until next year? With the best will in the world, it will be impossible to deliver in the coming year, considering that an equality impact assessment must be carried out before a library is closed down, and considering the timescale for staff redundancies. The Committee will visit Belfast Central Library on 6 December. Can we have some feedback on the help that may be available to deal with that impossible situation, because a cut of 15% is so large that it cannot be addressed in one year? It might be addressed over a couple years, but not in one year.

Mr Jack:
We will consider that. The indicative figures for the introduction of the new funding formula have been in place for some time. We must consider the way forward for the capital budget for libraries. There is a good capital outcome in the investment strategy.

Mr McCausland:
We had an opportunity to put a capital project into a school in north Belfast, but the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was unable to meet the demand at that time.

Mr Jack:
There is a need for a strategic approach.

Mr McCausland:
I agree entirely.

Mr Poots:
The issue of capital spend is open for discussion, but quality projects will receive funding. I want to see more service sharing, with libraries integrated into other facilities. For example, in rural areas, it may be more suitable for libraries to share with GPs’ surgeries or community facilities. However, in Belfast, a library may be more closely associated with a school. We must consider those opportunities, because recurrent costs will be reduced if we use service sharing. Ultimately, we are keen to do that, but it is important that £31 million has been set aside for capital investment in libraries, and that will make a difference on the ground.

Mr McCarthy:
I apologise for being late. Minister, are you content that the overarching aim, strategic priorities and cross-cutting themes of the Programme for Government are consistent with your vision for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure?

Sport is the main beneficiary of capital investment, and I am not complaining about that, but can you explain why you have prioritised sport over other areas?

Mr Poots:
I am content that DCAL has been placed at the heart of the draft Programme for Government. I have made the argument that DCAL has a key role to play in the economy and in health. For example, one of the key goals of the draft Programme for Government is to increase the numbers of children and young people who participate in sport and physical recreation to 125,000 by 2011.

Another goal is to ensure that at least a third of people with disabilities are participating in sport and physical recreation by 2013. The investment strategy for Northern Ireland, which you mentioned in the House, allocates £31·6 million of funding for libraries. The investment strategy also identifies £201 million to be spent on culture, arts and sport under the banner of health spending. Those are key areas in the draft Programme for Government and the investment strategy.

Mr McCarthy:
I am not complaining, but is there any reason why sport has been prioritised over other areas?

Mr Poots:
The Minister of Finance and Personnel is particularly of the view that savings can be made in the longer term on health if more people are encouraged to engage in physical recreation. I am glad that he has bought into that argument. In Scotland, money was taken directly from health and given to sport for that purpose. It may be worthwhile for the Committee to consider what has happened in Scotland because there may be useful arguments about the benefits of sport that can be developed in future years.

It is obvious that there is a problem in this country — young people are not as active as they were in years gone by. When they were younger, a lot of people in this room would have got a cuff on the lug and sent outside if there was any bother. They would have had to make their own by playing chasies, etc. Nowadays, youngsters play video games or watch television in their rooms, and many of them take little exercise. The problem of young people not taking enough exercise continues through to adult life. Many people become challenged, even at an early age, in their physical ability to engage in exercise.

There is a big opportunity to improve the health of the public of Northern Ireland through sport and physical recreation. I am convinced of that argument, which I make on a regular basis. I have made it to the Finance Minister, and he accepts much of that argument. Within the difficult budget that DCAL has, we have included a major uplift in sport in recurrent spending.

Mr Jardine:
Let me outline another angle on that matter. DCAL has considered the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability, and I believe that much of what we do, for example in libraries or sport, has a critical role to play in the promotion of good mental health. It is worth reiterating a comment that the Minister made earlier: a relatively small amount of money in DCAL can go a long way in that type of area. There have been some good initiatives, in the area of libraries, for example, to help people with mental-health difficulties. Across the piece, DCAL can make a major contribution.

The Chairperson:
Thank you. Francie Brolly will ask the last question.

Mr McNarry:
Chairman, I have a question on foot of that last answer.

The Chairperson:
We shall park that for now, until Francie asks his question.

Mr Brolly:
Following your comments about the loss of lottery funding and the possible recompense from the spin-off from the Olympics, one departmental target is to seek to attract 10 nations for pre-Olympic Games training. Can that target be strengthened a bit? Is a strategy in place to achieve that? Is DCAL contacting national Olympic committees already?

Mr Poots:
We discussed that with Lord Coe when he visited us. For example, the process for the 50-metre pool is well under way and will soon go to the planning stage. I am confident that we will be able to offer that facility for swimmers. The Salto gymnastics centre, which is in my constituency of Lagan Valley, is already up to Olympic standard. That centre is one of the bidders for funding, which would help it to provide a wider level of facilities for gymnasts. There are a number of such facilities, but not very many, and the elite facilities project would deliver a wider range. Therefore, 10 is a reasonable number for which to aim, and is a demonstration of the number of facilities that we will pursue for the Olympics.

Mr K Robinson:
Will the new facilities that are being built by the University of Ulster at Jordanstown be used, and is there a bid in for their potential use?

Mr Poots:
I am not sure whether they could be used. They will be used to train top Northern Ireland athletes to meet the highest levels in their disciplines.

Mr K Robinson:
Has a survey been carried out?

Mr Poots:
We have not had that discussion.

Mr Cory:
There are 41 bids to host training camps, but not all of them will meet the standards, which will not be published until after the Beijing Olympics. The universities are part of that process, on which Sport Northern Ireland gives the lead.

Mr McNarry:
Picking up on Kieran’s valuable contribution about health matters moving to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is that new money that the Minister of Finance and Personnel is encouraging you to have, or will the money come from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety? If so, how comfortable is the Minister of Health with having money moved from his Department to your Department? If it is the latter, an explanation is deserved. The public would appreciate funding being made available to you, but not in the case that is lost from the health budget.

Mr Poots:
In the case of Northern Ireland, the money has not moved from the Health Department, whose budget has increased as a percentage of the overall block Budget in the last round, and is now at 48%. Yesterday, I was in Dublin at the North/South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting on education, where the Irish Education Minister, Mary Hanafin, expressed surprise that the budget for health was 48% of the overall block Budget, as it was considerably less than that in the Republic.

Sport is not taking money from health, but in some other places, that has been the case. If we develop sport properly and encourage more people to take part in physical recreation, there would be long-term savings to the Health Service, although it will not all be savings, as the some of the people who participate in sport will end up with broken ankles or other injuries. However, in general, there will be substantial savings.

Mr McNarry:
Is it new money?

Mr Poots:
Yes, that is additional money for our Department. We will have 25% real growth in spending over the three-year period, and that is the second-highest growth for any Department. It was a difficult Budget, but I can assure you that I fought very hard at the Executive meetings and stated my case in strong terms. At the outset, there was a much more difficult situation, but we secured additional funding, after the scrap.

Mr McNarry:
This is a consultative draft Budget. Is it your intention to come back to the Committee when you have agreed the final Budget?

Mr Poots:
I am available at the request of the Committee; I have not turned down a request before.

The Chairperson:
How will the annually managed expenditure allocation be spent? I refer to correspondence that I received from your Department, dated 9 November.

Mr Jardine:
I think that that is related to costs for libraries.

Mr Jack:
Yes. There is an element of the funding that relates to service charges for public-private partnership projects. The library in Lisburn is the only significant project in that respect. There may be some other elements in respect of other library capital projects, but that is the biggest element.

The Chairperson:
I thank the Minister, Mick Cory, Edgar Jardine and Colin Jack for coming before the Committee this morning.

Mr P Ramsey:
There were some areas that the Minister did not cover in respect of the modernisation process for Ulster Rugby, the GAA and the creative learning centres. Could we get a written response on those matters?

The Chairperson:
Yes; we will request that in writing.

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