Committee for the Environment - Responses
Committee Response on draft Budget 2008 – 2011 document
Commmittee for the Environment
Tel 028 9052 1288
Mr Mitchell McLaughlin MLA
Committee for Finance and Personnel
27 November 2007
Committee Response on draft Budget 2008 – 2011 document
The Committee notes that the draft Budget sets out the NI Executive’s proposed spending plans for the period April 2008 – March 2011.
The Committee notes that the Budget allocation addresses the following key issues: -
- Road Safety: Road casualty reductions, road transport compliance and enforcement, reduction in vehicle related crime and reduced emissions.
- Through the Environment and Heritages Service, an enhanced environmental protection and improvement through Better Regulation: Establishment of a dedicated environmental crime team to combat the illegal dumping of waste and the establishment of a new strategic development and delivery support team to co-ordinate cross-cutting regulation activities, implementation of the air quality strategy.
- Support for district councils and the three Waste Management Groups from the programme delivery support unit in implementing major waste procurement plans.
- The development in part of an agreed programme for the modernisation and structure reform of local government.
- The proposed capital allocations will provide funding to District Councils to cover a percentage of the overall costs associated with compliance with EU Landfill Directive targets. Under “Reform Programme” the draft Budget states that the Department intends to take forward further reform of the Planning System and that the allocations would also enable the Review of Environmental Governance to be progressed which will address the structure, management and resourcing of the publicly funded elements of the environmental governance system within central and local government, and implement proposals for the future environmental governance arrangements, in relation to environmental protection, the natural heritage and the built heritage.
The Committee notes that the allocations received in the draft Budget largely meet the following spending proposals (bids): -
- Road Safety Services – requiring £4.55m other resources and £3.3m administration over the priorities and budget period.
- Enforcement and Better Regulation (EHS) – requiring £1.53m other resources and £3.4m administration over the priorities and budget period.
- Programme Delivery Support Unit (PDSU) – requiring £2m over the priorities and budget period.
The Committee notes that the following spending proposals (bids) were not met: -
- Planning Reform requiring £0.55m other resources and £2.5m administration over the priorities and budget period.
- Review of Public Administration (covering the costs incurred by Planning Service and Local Government Reform Unit in taking forward the RPA agenda) requiring £13.55m other resources and £4.55m administration over the priorities and budget period. LGRU requiring £13m other resources and £1.7m administration over the priorities and budget period.
- Local Government Division requiring £2.4m other resources over the priorities and budget period.
- Waste and Contaminated Land requiring £3.7m other resources and £0.83m administration over the priorities and budget period.
The Committee have particular concerns regarding the shortfalls relating to the spending proposals regarding the cost of implementing the RPA proposal.
The Committee welcomes the additional funding for enhanced roadside enforcement (£3.8m over the three year budget period) and enforcement and better regulation for environmental protection (£4.1m over the three years).
The Committee recommends that extra resources should be used to benefit one or more aspects of the ASSI programme. This could include an increased number of ASSI declarations made each year in order to complete the priority designations before 2016 and a quicker response rate on consent applications. This would lead to greater progress towards achieving favourable conditions of features within designated sites; and more robust protection and enforcement measures, particularly with regard to Natura 2000 sites.
The Committee is concerned that in order to deliver the administration savings in the final year (2010 – 2011), the Department of the Environment may have to suppress up to 300 posts, even after a board decision to reduce non-salary running costs by 15%.
The Committee are concerned that there will be a detrimental impact on service delivery particularly in certain lower priority areas of the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS).
Members are concerned at the proposed cutbacks in relation to the Environment and Heritage Service budget and the impacts they will have on training/resources/investment within the EHS.
Members are concerned at the proposed efficiency savings of £1.1m in relation to the Planning Service and how this will impact on any major reform of the Planning Service.
Planning Resource Need
The Committee is aware of the Minister’s intention to reform the planning process. The Committee acknowledge that the Planning Service is also facing a very significant structural reform arising from the Review of Public Administration (RPA).
The Committee notes that the Department’s additional funding for 2008 – 09 (£4.4m) includes an amount for the Planning Service of £2.2m which, in the main, will be used to pay for staff costs. The Committee recommends that similar amounts are also allocated to the Department in the final two Budget years, 2009 – 2010 and 2010 – 2011.