- Department of Education confirm that money for shared projects cannot be carried over from one year to the next
- £43 million will be spent over the next five years
- £207 million set to be returned to the Treasury
Ulster Unionist candidate for Mid-Ulster and Education Spokesperson, Sandra Overend, has reacted to confirmation from the Department of Education that money allocated to shared and integrated education under the Fresh Start agreement cannot be carried over from one year to the next. The Department also announced today that only £43 million will be spent over the next 5 years leaving £207 million lost to Northern Ireland over the first five years of the project.
Mrs Overend said:
“According to the Department of Education £43 million of this money has been allocated to six education projects and is to be spent over the first five years of the project. This is a deeply worrying statement. Essentially the Department is saying that over the next five years, instead of spending all of the £250 million of the Fresh Start money allocated, they are only planning to spend £43 million in total – that is a total loss to Northern Ireland of £207 million. I genuinely cannot believe that this has happened. It is a completely unacceptable way to manage a budget.
“What makes this more unsettling, is that the DUP specifically listed delivery of this programme as a pledge in their manifesto. They clearly cannot be trusted to follow through with their promises or hold true to their word.
“To try and find a resolution to the situation we had looked to the Department of Communities, who can also spend this money on shared housing, in the hope that something could be salvaged. Of course when we questioned the Minister of Communities on this issue in December 2016 he stated that there has been no expenditure to date and any projects being considered had 18-month lead in times.
“We must maximise every single penny we have in Northern Ireland to the best use possible. We are leaking £85,000 a day due to the RHI fiasco and now we are handing money back to the Treasury from shared and integrated housing. It’s completely farcical.
“We really must question what is going on here. Can we really afford 5 more years of this nonsense? Our school system is under severe pressure and the entire Department is facing the prospect of cuts. The Education Authority and Teachers’ Unions have been clashing for over a year about a pay rise totalling £7 million and in the same year we are handing £43 million back to the UK Treasury. It really is like something out of a comedy show, but unfortunately for us, it just isn’t funny.”