Budget 2015 raises serious concerns for voluntary and community sector

When the Finance and Personnel Minister Simon Hamilton presented the draft 2015/16 budget to the NI Assembly he said it was based on hope not fear.

And while many feared the budget would not be agreed at all,  for voluntary and community organisations it will be a challenge to remain hopeful as we engage with DFP on its budget consultation.

There’s no doubt that the financial situation faced by the NI Executive is unprecedented and the budget presented by the Minister for Finance and Personnel reflects that. The overall decline in the block grant, continued protection for health, the lack of revenue rising options and pressures such as public sector pensions and welfare reform mean there are very tough decision ahead for departments.

As always the devil will be in the detail and we await the departmental spending plans referred to in the budget with considerable interest. NICVA would echo the view of the Finance Minister in his budget statement when he said “it is likely that many Ministers will seek to make the savings required by their departments by way of an identical percentage cut across their services. This, in my view, is the wrong approach in these circumstances.”

However it is clear that cuts of this magnitude will involve, as Minister Hamilton put it “the cessation of some lower priority services within departments.”

NICVA is concerned that services to people provided by voluntary and community organisations will face unfair, disproportionate cuts as departments struggle to meet their new budget allocations.

Seamus McAleavey said; “The danger of disproportionate cuts, as NICVA sees it, is that many organisations in the community and voluntary sector are funded from what are often seen as discretionary funds, but they are doing real jobs that meet Department’s objectives. These organisations are often best placed to deliver those services but budget-holders might not see their work as core in the same sense as public services delivered by the public sector.”

NICVA will be consulting with our membership about the draft budget on 8th December from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. More details here for those who would like to attend.