CLAIM: Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said that the party delivered “an extra billion pounds” for Northern Ireland.
CONCLUSION: ACCURATE. The £1bn is specific to the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland and is in addition to funding pledged as a result of the Stormont House Agreement and Fresh Start Agreement. An estimated £420m remains to be spent.
On 31 July 2019, Arlene Foster — the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — said that her party will not apologise for “delivering an extra billion pounds” for Northern Ireland. She added: “Not any other party that has stood before you today has delivered one penny of money for the people of Northern Ireland. We have delivered that through our confidence and supply agreement …”
Since the 2017 General Election, the Conservative Government has relied on the support of the DUP to command a working majority in Parliament. This arrangement was formalised right away after the election in a Confidence and Supply Agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Party, on 26 June 2017. The Government agreed to provide the Northern Ireland Executive with additional financial support: £1 billion over five years.
On 1 November 2018, we published an article about City Deals being part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Party. We concluded that the UK Government’s support for city deals in Northern Ireland is not explicit in the “Confidence and Supply Agreement”, but is named in a subsequent financial support package agreed by the two parties.
The official UK Government statement explains that the £1 billion is additional to £2.5 billion of financial support and flexibility provided to the Northern Ireland Executive, by way of the Stormont House Agreement (23 December 2014) and Fresh Start Agreement (17 November 2015). The agreed £1 billion funding falls outside the consideration of the Barnett Formula; the funding is specific to the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland.
What does the £1 billion cover?
The official statement provides details of the extra £1 billion of financial support, in six policy areas:
- infrastructure development (£200m for 2 years)
- health service transformation (£100m for 2 years)
- broadband development (£75m for 2 years)
- immediate pressures in health and education (£50m for 2 years)
- pockets of severe deprivation (£20m for 5 years)
- mental health (£10m for 5 years)
How much of the funding has Northern Ireland received?
The Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19 was introduced to the House of Commons on 28 February 2019. By November 2018, the Northern Ireland Executive had received just under half of the agreed funding. The Commons Library Insight blog article, “Confidence and Supply: Northern Ireland’s £1 billion”, explains how much of this pledged additional expenditure has been delivered. The figures were obtained using the Estimates process.
In 2017-18, Parliament approved £20 million of the Confidence and Supply funds to be added to the grant to the Northern Ireland Executive. The Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that these funds were spent on education and to alleviate health pressures.
For 2018-19, Parliament approved a further £410 million to be added to the grant to the Northern Ireland Executive (£210 million day-to-day spending and £200 million investment). The funding was provided for the following areas:
- £80 million for immediate health and education (day-to-day spending). Of this £36.5 million is reported to be given to the Northern Ireland Department of Education
- £30 million to address mental health and severe deprivation (day-to-day spending)
- £100 million for health transformation (day-to-day spending)
- £200 million for infrastructure (investment spending)
This totals £430 million spent for financial years 2017-19:
Source: UK Parliament
In regards to the £150 million tranche for broadband development, on 16 July 2019 the Department for the Economy (DfE) launched a procurement for Project Stratum, which seeks to improve connectivity for those unable to access broadband services of at least 30 Mbps. This expenditure will reduce the amount yet to be drawn down to £420 million.
How is the money being spent in Northern Ireland?
The Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland explained how the £100 million allocated to healthcare transformation in 2018-19 will be spent:
- £30 million to stabilise the system by stemming the increase in waiting times for both diagnostic and elective care
- £15 million for investing in primary care, including £5 million for the initial roll-out of an operating model for multidisciplinary team working within GP practices
- £15 million for workforce development across the health and social care system
- £30 million of investment in reforming hospital and community services including the establishment of new elective care centres
- £5 million on building capacity in communities and in health prevention approaches
- £5 million on ‘enablers’ for transformation, including investment in development of quality improvement initiatives
In addition, The Department of Education has informed Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People how the £16.5 million awarded in 2018-19 for tackling deprivation is being spent:
- £6.4 million for Sure Start
- £0.7 million for literacy and numeracy
- £1.3 million for nurture units
- £2.3 million for Early Years Pathway funding
- £5.8 million for extended schools
The DUP agreed to support the Government on all key votes and the Government agreed to provide the Northern Ireland Executive with additional financial support: £1 billion over five years. The Confidence and Supply Agreement contained details of the agreed areas of expenditure: infrastructure development, health service transformation, broadband development, immediate pressures in health and education, pockets of severe deprivation, and mental health.
The agreed £1bn funding is specific to the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland and falls outside the consideration of the Barnett Formula. The £1bn funding is additional to funding pledged as a result of the Stormont House Agreement and Fresh Start Agreement.
The Northern Ireland Executive has received £430 million so far, plus £150 million for an announced broadband development procurement. This suggests that there is £420 million still to be drawn down.