What Department for Infrastructure can and can't do to save money

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The Department for Infrastructure has mooted some drastic measures to balance its books for the coming year.

Civil servants at the Department for Infrastructure are facing a series of difficult choices in the face of a budgetary crisis.

Its budget for the coming year has been cut by 14% compared to the previous year.

It is currently £112million above what it needs to be to meet the new budget allocation.

The situation is complicated further by the lack of a functioning Assembly or Executive.

Due the lacking of a minister, the department says it does not have the legal authority to make certain policy decisions.

DfI permanent secretary Julie Harrison said these decisions include:

  • stopping waste-water treatment

  • reducing essential road maintenance to emergency response only;

  • reducing winter service to snow clearance only; 

  • stopping the community transport programme; 

  • switching off streetlights (options are being assessed for 24/25); 

  • stopping flood prevention programmes.

The department has already taken several steps within its legal limits to produce a better budget.

These steps include:

  • Stopping Departmental spend on road safety advertising and other programmes

  • Ending the Cycling Proficiency Scheme (which supports teachers to develop children’s cycling skills)

  • Reducing the grant to Community Places (which provides independent planning advice to communities)

  • Providing a reduced allocation to the Active Travel School Programme

  • Dial-a-Lift services and the Disability Action Transport Scheme will be funded from 1 August at 95% of the level allocated for April to July

  • Funding for the Assisted Rural Travel Scheme (ARTS) will continue at current levels

  • Community Transport provision for the longer term will be reviewed, to ensure that we are maximising both value for money and outcomes through these key services

  • Reductions to ALBs of £53.4m from their originally assessed requirements.

Despite these moves, the department is still facing a stark fiscal reality in the coming year, and the decisions they do or don't take will impact the lives of the people of Northern Ireland.

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