Friday 24 November 2017

Other departments cough up to bail out Health

€250m hole to be plugged by cuts in other areas, but Howlin quiet on which ones

Brendan Howlin: 'confident expenditure will be met'
Brendan Howlin: 'confident expenditure will be met'

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

THE Department of Health is going to be bailed out by spending cuts elsewhere, it has emerged.

Up to €250m of extra funding will have to go to health and justice, but there will also be internal savings within those departments.

The health budget needs up to €200m and the justice budget needs €51m.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin says there will have to be several supplementary estimates before the end of the year.

But Mr Howlin said the overall spending will still be on target, meaning the shortfalls will be made up by savings elsewhere.

"I am very confident that at the end of this year, the overall expenditure profile will be comfortably met across all departments," he said.

Funding will be moved around between different areas of spending, Mr Howlin said.

"It is normal practice when speaking to a budget profile across all public administration in excess of €50bn," he said.

Mr Howlin said there will also be a supplementary estimate of €50m for the road construction stimulus package announced earlier this year.

Mr Howlin said 90pc of the Department of Justice budget is spent on pay.

"There must be flexibility to ensure gardai can deal with manpower issues in the way to best meet the security needs of the State," he said.

He said the €51m was a gross figure as there are savings being made within the justice area to make up some of the savings.

Mr Howlin said an additional €5m was allocated for the first instalment of the Magdalene Laundry payments.

"The issue of supplementary estimates is the norm. It is good practice, if priorities are reset during the year, for the line minister to have the capacity to propose using the same amount of money approved by the house in a different way," he said.

Mr Howlin gave no indication of how much would be needed in the Department of Health.

"The position on the health estimate remains under review and the Department of Health is working to contain the level needed," he said.

Fianna Fail public spending spokesman Sean Fleming blamed the overrun on the failure to accurately estimate the budget in these departments.

"This is not because of overspending, but rather that the wrong estimate was presented to the houses to start with.

"That has been known from the start. What will the minister do about people bringing forward flawed estimates?" he asked.

Mr Howlin said the key point about spending this year is that all ministers and their departments are "managing their expenditure".

"Overall spending for the year to date is 2.3pc under profile; and in aggregate, voted expenditure for 2013 will be on target. This means that we will achieve our 2013 fiscal targets," he said.

'PRESSURES'

Mr Howlin said at the end of October spending was running €844m slower than expected.

"Expenditure is being managed well within profile, although the figures indicate that there are some pressures in the justice group and health group of votes," he said.

Mr Howlin said a small number of supplementary estimates will be required to allow for some "movement of financial allocations".

Mr Howlin said these "will be Exchequer neutral", meaning the money will be shifted around.

"While it remains a matter for each minister and their departments to ensure adherence to the vote, my department is in regular communication with line departments about monitoring expenditure to ensure that any risks arising from overruns are addressed," he said.

Irish Independent

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