Some DOE programmes facing suspension after budget

1 Feb 2011     Last updated: 8 Oct 2014

The sixth government department to discuss the proposed budget cuts as part of NICVA’s series of consultation meetings was the Department of the Environment. Cynthia Smith, Deputy Secretary of Corporate Services and Road Safety.

Paul Duffy, Director of Finance and Business Planning and Graham Seymour, Director of Natural Heritage at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, also attended the meeting to clarify the pressures the Department is under and outline where proposed cuts will be made.

It was explained that some programmes will be suspended / postponed following a cut of £4million from the Department’s budget, and revenue raised from the proposed plastic bag levy will be used in its place.

The programmes facing suspension / postponement are:

  • River Restoration
  • Environmental Noise
  • Marine Resources
  • Minerals Mapping
  • Flytipping
  • Repatriation of Waste

Other proposed savings within the Department include:

  • Restructuring of departmental functions, ie Corporate Services Review, Planning Service
  • Review of fees and charges, ie planning application fees
  • Reduction in areas of discretionary spend, ie events programme
  • Reduction in grant programmes, ie air quality grants, listed buildings grants
  • Reduction in the management and maintenance of nature reserves, country parks and the grounds of state care monuments.

Contributors from the floor welcomed the opportunity to hear from the speakers and raised a number of concerns, mainly around the introduction of the plastic bag levy. These included seeking confirmation on the presence of a contingency plan if not enough revenue was raised from the levy and also clarification on what would happen should surplus profits be made.

It was also pointed out that the whole point of the levy is to discourage the use of plastic bags and that the likelihood of no profits being made in the first year is quite high as the infrastructure to support it needs to be put into place first.

Other concerns raised included the programmes facing suspension / postponement, what EU Directive infractions could occur as a result of this and if any penalties imposed will filter down to the tax payer.

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