Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland to be last UK nation to fix a budget

Stormont
Image caption Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said no budget would be agreed within the next two weeks

Northern Ireland will be the last of the devolved administrations to agree a draft budget in the wake of the Chancellor's Spending Review.

Both Scotland and Wales are due to announce their draft budgets on Wednesday next week.

The Stormont finance department has abandoned hopes that a draft budget might be agreed early next week.

Department sources are refusing to put a timescale on the discussions between ministers in their budget review group.

On Friday, the Sinn Fein Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said no budget would be agreed within the next two weeks.

Mr Murphy said a draft budget "cannot be about a distribution of a reduced block grant from the British treasury".

He said ministers needed to examine proposals to raise revenue, to challenge the Conservatives on their proposed cuts, and to clarify the pledge of the last government to an £18bn capital spending programme.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has revealed that he met Gordon Brown in London earlier this week to discuss the former prime minister's understanding of that pledge.

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