Northern Ireland

NI Executive agrees four-year draft budget

Stormont
Image caption A marathon session of talks at Stormont ended with three of the main parties agreeing a deal

Northern Ireland's Executive has agreed a four-year draft budget incorporating £4bn of spending cuts.

Talks between the parties went late into the night after ministers gathered at Stormont on Tuesday.

The DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance Party all approved the plan. The SDLP and UUP both abstained.

The first and deputy first ministers described their draft budget as evidence of the executive providing leadership during tough economic times.

Northern Ireland is the last devolved administration to agree on a budget. Scotland and Wales have already outlined their spending plans.

Chancellor George Osborne ordered Stormont to cut spending by £4bn over the next four years as part of the spending review announced on 20 October.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson described the deal as a "good Christmas present for the people of Northern Ireland".

First Minister Peter Robinson said they had achieved more the Scotland and Wales by agreeing a four year budget and finding new ways to generate revenue.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that the budget would give people "much needed stability".

The budget is due to be discussed by the Assembly later on Wednesday.

The draft is certain to include cuts for some departments as well as proposals for generating extra revenue, such as a charge on civil service car parking and a plastic bag levy.

A public sector pay freeze for those paid more than £21,000 is also likely.

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