Northern Ireland Assembly
Monday 2 July 2001 (continued)
Can the Minister expand on her comments about angling at Newry Canal? Can she tell us whether Newry and Mourne District Council - which is the owner, if not charged with responsibility for the canal - is being consulted on this matter?
The Minister stated that her Department will meet the cost of the additional funding required to complete the agency's headquarters. Can she tell us whether this cost is being met from the appropriate budget heading - "intergovernmental and cross-border" - or is it being taken from another aspect of her Department's funding? Were the proper procedures used? Was the contract tendered, and what was the full extent of the work involved?
There is ongoing consultation with Newry and Mourne District Council in relation to Newry Canal. The £81,000 funding for the headquarters is being met from within the budget.
My question was specific. I asked whether the money is being taken from the budget already allocated for cross-border matters or from the Department's main budget.
The money is coming from the cross- border budget.
The other element of the question was whether a proper procedure of tendering and consultation had been adopted. Can the Minister confirm that proper procedures were undertaken?
I assure the Member that the proper tendering procedure is undertaken at all times by the agency. That was done.
I thank the Minister for her statement. I share some of the fears expressed by other Members about how successful a tagging scheme can be in a river system, particularly in the Foyle. As Mr McMenamin said, the problem is not with the licensed fishermen but with those who take and kill salmon illegally in the Foyle.
My question relates to the marine tourism strategy, particularly in the Foyle basin. Has the Council considered the current proposals to establish a new ferry service connecting Donegal with the Limavady Borough Council area? Is it aware of that, and is it taking it on board? Will it be assisting with funding for the scheme, and will it be part of the overall marine tourism strategy?
I thank Mr Hussey for his question. Yes, that project is being considered. The Member may be aware that a marine tourism officer has been appointed to bring forward a marine tourism strategy. The FCILC has also set up a marine tourism subgroup, which has responsibility for bringing forward proposals to form the basis for that strategy. The question of a ferry service is being considered.
The Minister of Finance and Personnel (Mr Durkan):
This statement is made on behalf of the Executive about public spending allocations in 2001-02 in the light of the June monitoring round. That monitoring round is our main opportunity to consider how to deal with the resources made available in this financial year through the carry-over of underspending from 2000-01. The Executive also have to distribute additional resources that were added to the departmental expenditure limit following the Chancellor's Budget in March. There are also some savings that have already emerged on the basis of up-to-date information on the amounts required for some services.
As I have emphasised in previous statements on monitoring rounds, the main theme and purpose of such exercises is to adjust the allocation of resources in line with a better analysis of the cost pressures. We must ensure that the money is adjusted to take account of changes in the delivery of public services. The Executive also want to take account of the priorities and objectives in the Programme for Government and take any new opportunities to promote equality of opportunity. We must combine the pragmatic and the strategic.
The timetable for monitoring rounds is usually such that decisions must be taken and implemented quickly. Therefore, the Executive's practice has been to reach decisions through discussions between Ministers, following which I will announce the outcome, on behalf of the Executive. The Executive are always open to proposals from the Assembly and the Committees, and those views can be taken into account in future monitoring rounds. However, it has not normally been possible to consult Committees directly about the process. Many issues require urgent consideration, so that the appropriate adjustments can be made to the planning of public services by schools, hospitals, Government agencies and grant- aided bodies. On this occasion, the Executive have decided to take that approach for a substantial proportion of the proposed allocations.
I shall announce some decisions on reallocations. However, for a variety of reasons, we wish to indicate that some of the resources require further consideration before the Executive reach a decision. Some decisions can be deferred for several weeks and others until the autumn. That makes it possible to link this exercise with our consideration of the next Budget cycle. It will also present an opportunity for the Assembly and the Committees, particularly the Committee for Finance and Personnel, to give views on the remaining proposals.
We must address the question of end-of-year carry- over. The Executive have decided that underspend on capital expenditure should be carried forward automatically by the Department concerned. That reflects the reality that the management of capital spending programmes frequently involves changes of timing that are outside the control of the spending authority concerned, when good management suggests that re-phasing or adjustment is the appropriate course of action.
The end-year flexibility arrangements allow spending authorities to deal with capital allocations in a more flexible and pragmatic way than would be possible if we rigidly applied the end-of-year constraint. The Executive support that, and end-year flexibility is automatic, subject to careful monitoring and assurance that the capital expenditure is in line with the proposals in the Programme for Government. The amounts involved this year on this heading are £30 million. Those resources will be retained by the relevant Departments and spending authorities. For technical reasons, the same applies to the small amount of underspending on the GP fundholders scheme, which is coming to an end.
The amount of end-year flexibility available for consideration this year amounts to some £52 million. That excludes the already mentioned capital carry-over and represents 1·2% of the departmental allocations. It reflects generally prudent estimating by Departments as they manage their spending towards the end of each financial year. Parliament and, doubtless, this Assembly, place considerable importance on ensuring that there is no overspend, which would involve expenditure exceeding the amounts authorised under legislation and through the Supplementary Estimates. It is therefore inevitable that public sector managers ensure that excess votes are avoided, with the corollary that there is always some underspending at this sort of level. Details are set out in table 1 attached to my statement. That £52 million is now available for reallocation.
Some additional resources from the Treasury are available and have not yet been allocated. Those comprise the £18 million which was added to the Northern Ireland departmental expenditure limit in the March Budget and £4·4 million from the latest round of allocations to the Chancellor's capital modernisation fund. While those resources came from particular sources in England, they are available to spend as the Executive chooses, and we are not in any way constrained as to how we make use of them.
In this monitoring round, Departments have declared savings of £29 million compared to the allocations approved in the December Budget. The largest component of that is further receipts from house sales, amounting on this occasion to £15 million. Those are outside the estimates currently being approved through the Budget (No 2) Bill. We have a total of £104 million to allocate in this monitoring round.
I have frequently drawn attention to the constraints that we face in planning our spending. The availability of resources through savings of this nature should not in any way delude us - or anyone else, for that matter - that our spending programmes are not under considerable pressure. There are significant demands for spending on services which are badly needed and which would be of clear benefit to the public. In this monitoring round the bids for additional resources which have been lodged exceed the amount available by a factor of two. This pales into insignificance compared to the position report presented to the Assembly a fortnight ago, which showed that the amounts sought by Departments amounted to something like 20 times the amount available. That was in a context where we, as an Executive, encouraged Departments to be judicious in the levels of additional resources they sought for next year.
Given the pressure on resources and the wide range of aspirations which Executive Ministers and Assembly Members have in mind, we need to consider very carefully how best to use those resources. The Executive is conscious that there are resource pressures, both this year and next. We want to shift the emphasis of our financial planning to a better, forward-looking basis. There are significant disadvantages in making short-term reallocations, triggered by resources becoming available as the year progresses.
It is better to be able to plan resources on a longer-term basis and give spending authorities greater stability for planning purposes. Plans can change, and we need to be ready to respond to fluctuations in cost pressures.
One option that we have is to make use of some end-year flexibility, not in 2001-02 but in 2002-03. We cannot decide this now, as we need to keep an eye on a wide range of spending pressures in the current year. However, if it is possible, we would like to consider some carry-forward so that some of the spending pressures that were identified in the position report might be addressed next year. This in turn means limiting the extent to which we commit resources this year.
Of the total of £104 million that we have available, the Executive have decided to allocate some £63 million now. Details of the additional allocations are set out in table 2 in my statement. I do not propose to explain in detail each item of additional expenditure that we are allocating at this time. I will, however, indicate some of the more substantial or significant items.
The main additional cost to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is of course the cost associated with foot-and-mouth disease. We are having to fund £6·8 million from the departmental expenditure limit for the preventative measures and other associated costs. The costs of compensation for slaughtered animals, and so on, falls to the Treasury through annually managed expenditure and do not represent a cost in our spending plans. There are also additional costs associated with BSE testing that must be addressed urgently.
Additional allocations to contribute to Belfast's bid to be the European City of Culture in 2008 have been agreed for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. There are also some additional staffing costs required for the Department.
Additional allocations totalling £14 million are provided for the Department of Education. That amount includes £7·8 million for teachers' performance pay and £2 million for work to extend access for the disabled.
Additional requirements in my own Department amount to £2·4 million. That mainly reflects revised estimates of costs for the delivery of services including the cost of Government office accommodation and the delivery of some core functions. In addition, £0·7 million has been set aside to cover additional costs for the Special EU Programmes Body, which will need to be put for approval to the North/South Ministerial Council.
The new allocations include £6·3 million for the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, or the Department of Employment and Learning as we will soon be calling it. This includes an important allocation of £3 million for the adaptation of facilities for disabled people in both further and higher education, which is vital if we are to fulfil our statutory responsibilities to those who need access to facilities which at present is difficult or impossible.
Health Service costs are again a major feature of this monitoring round. It is proposed to allocate £18 million to health services now to address some new cost factors including pay settlements at higher levels than expected and further transitional costs due to the situation at South Tyrone Hospital.
Members will recall that action was taken in the last financial year to address the issue of the trust deficits. The Department of Finance and Personnel, the Economic Policy Unit (EPU) and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety also jointly commissioned a report from consultants on the background of the trust deficit issue and the possible implications for the current and future financial years.
We recognised that the deficits could be the result of a higher activity level in trusts than was provided for in the approved budgets, in response to urgent patient demand. In that context, action to adjust the trusts' finances might not have been confined to the last financial year. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has lodged a bid for a further £10 million to address the trusts' recovery plans. The Executive have decided to look at this again over the next few weeks, in the light of the conclusions of the Deloitte & Touche report on the deficit issue, which has just been received.
Additional allocations have been made to the Department for Regional Development for a number of essential and high-priority services. The purposes of these allocations include addressing increased costs from the climate change levy and oil prices, monitoring cryptosporidium, and dealing with costs that affect the water and sewerage service. A total of £4·2 million is being provided for the Department for Regional Development.
A major source of savings for redistribution in this monitoring round has been the additional capital receipts generated by the Housing Executive due to favourable conditions for house sales. That has led to a reduced rental income level for the Housing Executive, and we are providing £1·5 million pounds to the Department for Social Development to make up for that. That and other activities, including re-phased provision for welfare reform and modernisation, account for the Department for Social Development's £3·6 million allocation.
We are allocating an additional £1·4 million to the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. That is to ensure that the Executive's agenda on human rights and equality can be pursued and that appropriate provision can be made for the Washington bureau, the Civic Forum and the Equality Commission.
There are further bids from Departments that we need to seriously consider over the coming months. Such is the pressure on our spending provision for next year that the Executive have decided that it might be necessary to forgo some of the bids this year so that additional uncommitted spending power can be carried forward into next year. The bids that we would defer for further consideration are listed in table 3 attached to the copies of my statement, which were given to Members. In particular, we will want to revisit the position on the health trusts when the consultants' report on the deficit issue has been received and considered by the Executive.
Other significant bids might need to be addressed later this month, but many of the bids that are listed could still be reconsidered in the next main monitoring round. At that point we would need to make a final decision on whether to hold some money back from 2001-02 to be deliberately carried forward into 2002-03. We will have drawn out the Budget proposals for Departments and put them in draft form for the Assembly by that stage. The proposals will be based on the level of resources that are available for 2002-03. We need to proceed on that basis, because at this stage we cannot be sure that it will be possible to carry any provision into 2002-03. If it is possible, we might be able to adjust the draft Budget.
If it is possible to adjust the draft Budget, the Executive will wish to take full account of the views of the Assembly Committees and of the outcome of wider consultation. The decisions that we need to take on those issues will be strongly influenced by what we hear from the Assembly Committees during the next few months. I will look, in particular, to the Finance and Personnel Committee to advise and assist on these difficult and interesting issues.
It would be helpful to hear views on the nature and merit of the deferred bids, which we must return to in the autumn, and, in some cases, earlier. It will be interesting to hear views on whether we should carry forward any spending provision into next year. Members' reactions to the range of issues set out in the position report published last month will be highly influential. It is easier to see the necessity of addressing some of those bids than to find resources available to meet them.
There are real issues here, which the Assembly and the Committees should be in a position to carefully consider and influence. The Executive will consider some of those issues during July and will need to act clearly and directly in the autumn. I am not setting a deadline for comments from the Assembly Committees because the timing of the process is not ideal from the Members' perspective.
The Executive is bringing this matter to the Assembly as early as possible, having dealt with the initial round of decisions urgently, in order to make it possible for the statement to be made today. We are giving the Assembly information on what has been decided and are seeking views and input into what has not yet been decided. I look forward to hearing the views of Members on these important issues now and over the coming months.
Mr Deputy Speaker:
The debate must be completed by 2.30 pm; the sacred time for Oral Answers to Questions. I call Mr Francie Molloy. I suggest that the other eight speakers limit their remarks so that as many people as possible can speak.
The Chairperson of the Finance and Personnel Committee (Mr Molloy):
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his detailed statement. I will touch on some issues, as the Committee will have more questions for the Minister later today.
We note that £104 million has been made available to Departments through the Chancellor's Budget, end-of-year flexibility and the savings from Departments. We also note that Departments have underspent by almost £30 million. That is quite a lot of money for reallocation, and it raises a number of questions that Committees will want to take up in a number of ways.
What areas and circumstances have delivered these savings? Are there fundamental flaws in the process that need to be addressed? What steps will the Minister of Finance and Personnel take to ensure that money has been allocated to priority areas?
In my constituency people comment that if the same amount of money had been put into the South Tyrone hospital as had been put into the transitional costs, the hospital might still be up and running. If we continue to pay off trust deficits, is there a danger that trusts will simply keep building up deficits and that we will have no control of the management of those trusts? It also raises the issue of the 8% rise in rates. In the light of the amount of money that is available for reallocation, we must look at the bids that were originally made.
I thank the Chairperson of the Committee for his questions, and I am sure that we will be able to pursue a number of them this afternoon.
The purpose of monitoring rounds is to identify resources available. It is good that we can identify resources that are available - it would be much more difficult if we found that resources were not available. As I spelt out in my statement, Departments want to avoid overspending - as a result they sometimes overestimate the amount they need. That is why we have some resources available at the end of the year.
We should not look at the moneys that are already available this year as some problem for which we pursue the Departments that have come forward with those moneys at this stage. We should recognise that the process of setting Estimates is not as straightforward as we would like it to be. Remember, the earlier we set the Estimates cycle in train - particularly at the request of this Assembly - the more speculative the Estimates are going to be. People will go more for fairly "broad brush" Estimates, and subsequently these will be subject to more revision and review, which is what we are seeing.
In relation to the South Tyrone Hospital, we have taken a decision based on a bid received in this monitoring round. Obviously, bids were received in previous monitoring rounds, and we are working on the basis of bids received. We recognise the significant pressure, and the Executive and I recognise the serious difficulties that would result from not meeting this bid as it has been put to us by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Regarding possible alternatives to this bid, I refer the Member to the Minister and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
I have already said that the Executive will be looking at trust deficits again. I note the concern that the Chairman has expressed, which is not removed from the concern expressed by some Members when last we looked at this issue. I would be happy if the Committee for Finance and Personnel, or indeed the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, wanted to address us with its thinking on those issues.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Finance and Personnel Committee (Mr Leslie):
I thank the Minister for his detailed statement. A couple of points occur to me. In the bids for resources, three different Departments have put in for sums amounting to about £2·4 million to pay their fuel bills. I presume that this reflects an assumption about oil prices that proved optimistic, with oil prices being higher than anticipated. Nothing has happened to oil prices, so I further presume that they were expected to fall but did not. Can the Minister comment on that, and perhaps tell us what oil price was used in the Budget? Clearly, this could have an effect for some time. I would be interested to know what he thinks the further consequences of oil staying at about $29 to the barrel would be.
I also want to raise a point that comes up again and again here. We have another £15 million of receipts from house sales. We convert this capital into income - putting it into the spending pool. As a consequence, rental income to the Housing Executive falls, and we are forced to make an allowance of £1·5 million for that, implying a 10% yield on those houses. What are we going to do about the housing debt that still has to be serviced? Is it prudent for us to continue to convert capital into income in this way?
This is not the first time that we have received bids in monitoring rounds to cover difficulties regarding oil prices, and it may well not be the last. If any Department, or non-departmental public body whose costs Departments are reflecting, were making assumptions in relation to fuel costs that did not stand up, then obviously we would need to look at that. However, people make assumptions on the basis of the price indications at the time the Budget is set - and that was last autumn.
It is part of that issue. The Estimates will not be perfect because not everything stands still. Not everything remains equal, and the earlier we make the Estimates cycle, as the Assembly wants us to do, the more variance there may be when it comes to out-turns.
As regards house sales, the right to buy exists. It was a particular problem in the past when the Housing Executive, as well as handing over the money from sales, had to withstand the loss of rental income. It is not unreasonable to make good that loss, and that point has been emphasised by many Members in the House, including some in the Member's own party.
We want to try to reinvest in capital where we can do so. I have indicated that we need to look at the question that the Member has raised to see what is the best way of managing a facility that may lend itself to a better and more sensible approach.
I welcome the Minister's statement, particularly the allocation made for the childcare subsidy for lone parents under New Deal. Can the Minister confirm that the allocation will further encourage single parents to enter the labour market and avail of economic opportunities arising, and that this is further evidence of our commitment to exclude no one from the benefits as we build a society based on equality, fairness and opportunity?
I am happy to confirm that this is what the Executive are trying to do in meeting this particular bid. It should provide the Department with the necessary financial resources to meet claims for childcare subsidies during 2001. The Department for Social Development will be responsible for meeting those claims in the future. However, as regards our commitment to social inclusion, targeting social need and to making the most of New Deal with respect to our particular regional needs and opportunities, the Executive's decision to meet that bid is a useful example of the value of devolution.
I welcome the Minister's statement and the facts and figures that he has given. The Minister posed several questions about carrying forward money. First, I would like him to consider the idea of being able to carry money forward, or give a guarantee that a project entered into can be sustained over a period of time. I am thinking of the Hayes Report, which recommends a hospital for the south-west of the Province. When it eventually arrives in Omagh, we are thinking in terms of £60 million. That money needs to be spread over time in order to purchase the land, the infrastructure and the bricks and mortar. However, the final and largest gulp of money is for the technology that will go into the building. How would that be seen in regard to financial and resource funding?
Secondly, another concern to every councillor in the west of the Province is the £15 million raised from house sales, which most of us agree should go back into housing provision to provide a modern stock of housing in the public sector at all times. Perhaps there is a budgeting arrangement whereby money is returned to the Exchequer. However, there should be some reward so that we can maintain a good level of public sector housing.
Thirdly, I noticed from the forecast figures that the Department for Regional Development is asking for £15 million to deal with the backlog of roads projects.
Four years ago, one council alone had a backlog of £32 million. If we add that to the other one in west Tyrone, that is a backlog of £64 million. That does not deal with road safety or necessary modern structural improvements. How is the Minister intending to finance -
Mr Deputy Speaker:
Mr Gibson, you are beginning to make a speech.
How is the Minister intending to finance those works?
Mr Deputy Speaker:
The Minister should reply to as much of that as he can in the time.
The first question was not particularly concerned with in-year monitoring. It would not be appropriate for me to answer, in the context of monitoring round decisions, questions about outcomes that might emerge from the Hayes Report, decisions that might or might not be made and how those decisions would be brought forward in relation to a possible new hospital in the south-west. I do not think that the questions I have raised about carrying forward some money that has fallen to us this year into next year to assist with the pressures in the position report are a relevant premise for the question that the Member asked.
In relation to house sales, the Member seems to suggest that whatever income comes in from house sales should all automatically go into the housing budget. All Departments and agencies are asked to bring forward budgets for the incoming financial year and to make their plans accordingly. The Budget that we set includes assumptions about income from house sales, just as it includes assumptions about rental income. If the money available from house sales increases significantly, then rather than automatically falling to the Housing Executive, it is right that it should fall to the block as a whole for us to decide its best use. Where income falls - as rental income falls because of house sales - the question can arise again, in relation to the block, as to whether we make good that fall in income. To suggest that added revenue should lie where it falls is unfair to those programmes that cannot generate revenue.
It is significant that the Member went on to talk about the £15 million bid for roads. It is an unusual coincidence that the extra revenue from house sales, which the Member is saying should automatically go to the Housing Executive and not be taken to the centre, is equal to the figure requested by the Department for Regional Development for roads. We would not have money available for other Departments to bid on if we chose the course that the Member recommended in the earlier part of his question.
I congratulate the Minister on his approach, especially as it creates an opportunity for the Assembly and its Committees, particularly the Finance and Personnel Committee, to have an input into the decision-making process for the remaining resources in October. Can the Minister confirm that this is a further step in the process of opening up the budgetary process, something that would have been unheard of in the days of direct rule?
It is a reflection of the more open, and, I hope, more informed, approach that we have taken to financial planning considerations than would have been possible under direct rule. I recognise that the amount of money that we are talking about holding over for consideration in the autumn as to whether to allocate it this year or next is not huge compared to the overall Budget. Given that we will have little room to manoeuvre next year, as reflected in the position report, it is right to try to let the Assembly have a bit more of a hard shoulder to drive on than we would otherwise have. There are very challenging questions in the position report for the Executive and departmental Committees, but if we have some more scope in financial terms, it will give the Committees more scope for consideration and influence.
I welcome the movement toward greater flexibility and the opening of the doors that appear to have been hitherto locked in front of us. We are getting there, and some necessary steps have been taken.
There is £51 million in the provisional out-turn figure that has not been spent in the current year. Does the Minister agree that we have a golden opportunity to demonstrate that this is a caring Assembly? We should get away from having little boxes in which each Department locks its money. We should take decisions that show that the weak and vulnerable in our society - the sick and the elderly - are the number one priority. Much could be done by spending the £51 million now to ensure that the sick are not left on hospital trolleys in hospital corridors, that community care budgets are sufficient to allow elderly people - [Interruption].
Mr Deputy Speaker:
Members should confine themselves to asking questions. The Member is making a statement. Please ask a question.
Does the Minister agree that the needs of the elderly should have priority, that we should not have people on trolleys in hospital corridors and that there should be an increase in the community care budget now? We are faced with deficits in all the trust areas. Only recently, as the Minister is aware, we debated the underfunding in the Down Lisburn Trust. We know about the deficits. Rather than wait for a Deloitte Touche report, we should spend money to remove those deficits now, so that we can start afresh in the next financial year.
I thank Mr Close for his unusual welcome for my statement. I hope that his sense that our presentation is improving will be borne out by future developments.
The Member spoke about the amount of money that was left over from last year. I agree that we should be a caring Administration. However, we must also be a careful Administration. That means that we must ensure that we spend money wisely. If money does not need to be spent in the way that we had expected, it can be put to other uses.
Today, we are announcing the allocation of over £63 million, including £18 million to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, as well as funding for other key services. There are outstanding bids for other services, including further services in the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. We must address the issue of the trust recovery plans, but I remind the Member that we allocated money in a monitoring round in the last financial year to make good the problem of trust deficits. Indeed, the Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel conveyed some concerns that that might become too much of a habit. An additional bid has now been received for trust recovery plans, and those plans are based on the avoidance of future deficits. We will take action in that area, and views of the kind that the Member has expressed can be channelled through the Committee for Finance and Personnel when it considers that question.
I note what the Minister said about the extra funding. Did the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety request additional funding for specialist drugs? A figure of £2·8 million has been set aside for that. How much money did the Department ask for? Did it ask for extra money to deal with waiting lists, for which £2 million has been set aside? I am presuming that that £2·2 million funding to address the waiting lists -
Mr Deputy Speaker:
Mr Shannon, this is the Minister of Finance and Personnel. Is it not obvious that your question should be directed to the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety?
I am asking the Minister how much money the Department of Health asked for in relation to waiting lists and specialist drugs. He should be able to answer that question.
Mr Deputy Speaker:
He is showing some willingness to help you.
Mr Shannon is asking questions relating to table 3. Table 3 does not list the bids that are being met. Those are not the allocations that are being announced today. Table 2 gives the allocations that are being announced today as part of the £63 million. I have said that there are other bids that are not being met and that they will be deferred for wider consideration in the autumn, or in some cases, such as for the trust deficits and some other issues, later this month.
The amount that the Department bid for with regard to waiting lists and specialist drugs is exactly the figure that the Member read out. Those are the bids.
I welcome the Minister's statement and the resources that have flowed from it. Does he agree that the process of resource allocation in this devolved Administration should follow our needs and not just automatically follow on from what happens in Britain, thereby demonstrating the devolution difference?
I agree that we should make our own decisions according to our own needs. We want to make many of the changes and take many of the positive steps that are taking place across the water, but we have to recognise the needs of our own particular services. In some cases, particular costs and pressures arise, not just because of our demographic make-up, but also because we have economy of scale issues and a different administrative structure.
We should also remember that taking decisions according to our own needs is not just a matter of saying that we are jealous of our own discretion. It also means that we have to be hard-headed about the choices that we make for ourselves.
Rev Dr William McCrea:
There is an allocation of £63 million in this monitoring round. Does the Minister believe that the allocation made to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to meet the requirements of the elderly, many of whom feel neglected, with no money in community services, is sufficient? Could a further allocation not be made urgently to meet the need for residential and nursing home accommodation?
I refer the Member to tables 2 and 3, which detail the bids that we have received. In a monitoring round, the Department of Finance and Personnel, working with the Economic Policy Unit, can only deal with the bids that it receives. The same applies to the Executive. We have taken decisions on that basis.
I recognise that there are services in all Departments, not least in the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, which are under pressure. I hope that Members will work on the basis of the decisions that we have had to take, and the choices that we have made, in the context of the bids that we received.
Mr Deputy Speaker:
Standing Orders provide for one hour for this debate. We have only two minutes left, so I am going to move on to the next item of business.