Press Release

Committee Calls for Better Scrutiny of Spending Priorities

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 02 February 2011

Reference: E&L 08/10/11

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Employment and Learning has called on the Department to better target its priorities and spending in response to cuts to the Employment and Learning budget.

The Department, which has set out how it intends to support its programmes, appears to have ‘top-sliced’ funding rather than carry out an in-depth analysis on their effectiveness.

Chairperson of the Committee, Dolores Kelly, MLA said: “What we are hearing from the Department is that it intends to spread the available funding more thinly over the existing priorities and programmes.

“However, we are concerned that the Department appears not to be assessing the success or impact of various programmes before allocating what we all realise are very scarce resources.

“We do not know, at this moment, whether a particular priority or programme is providing value for money—something which is vital in the current economic climate."

Deputy Chairperson Jonathan Bell, MLA agrees that Committee members need more information from the Department. He said: “We call on the Department to take another look, use the available research and think again about its priorities.”

Notes to Editors:

The Department for Employment and Learning has indicated to the Committee that it will end Adult Apprenticeships for those aged 25+ as part of its budget reductions.

The Department has also indicated that the unemployed will no longer be able to volunteer to go onto employability programmes; they will have to wait until mandated to do so. The Department is currently reviewing the budget for Educational Maintenance Allowance with the Department of Education.

The Minister for Employment and Learning has suggested that tuition fees for university students are also likely to have to rise to offset cuts to the Department’s budget. The Committee has been taking evidence on these and other issues as part of its scrutiny of the Department’s budget proposals for 2011-15.

Members of the Committee suggested to Departmental officials that it would be appropriate to review the effectiveness of its spending and establish where cuts can be made that way, rather than squeezing or ‘salami slicing’ whole budget.

The Committee Chairperson is Mrs Dolores Kelly MLA

Deputy Chairperson: Mr Jonathan Bell MLA

Committee members:

Mr. Sydney Anderson MLA 
Mr. Paul Butler MLA 
Rev. Dr. Robert Coulter MLA 
Mr. Chris Lyttle MLA 
Mr. David McClarty MLA 
Mrs. Claire McGill MLA 
Ms. Sue Ramsey MLA 
Mr. Pat Ramsey MLA 
Mr. Peter Weir MLA

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