Northern Ireland

Hamilton: Education to receive 'lion's share' of Stormont budget

Simon Hamilton
Image caption Simon Hamilton will officially unveil the budget in the assembly on Monday

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said the department of education will receive the "lion's share" of additional money in the Stormont budget.

He said the departments of health, employment and learning, enterprise and policing would also benefit.

The executive agreed the budget for 2015/2016 on Friday.

However, three of the parties, the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance, all voted against.

It was passed with a majority of 9-4, with support from the DUP and Sinn Féin.

An extra £150m is being given to executive departments, compared with the spending set out in the draft budget, which was published in the autumn.

The budget will be officially unveiled in the assembly on Monday.

Mr Hamilton told the BBC's Sunday Politics that the executive had been able to make "strategic allocations" to departments the public viewed as priorities.

Image caption Three of the five executive parties voted against the budget

"It's fair to say that the lion's share of that £150m, and in fact the biggest single allocation will go to the department of education," he said.

"That's in response to not only our desire within the executive to see a high quality education system, but also the consultation that was there, that was put out in the response that has come back from the public and the concern that there was that the classroom would be hit."

The finance minister also welcomed the fact that ministers had agreed a budget.

"I think the fact that we have been able to agree a budget and agree that budget well in advance of the deadline of doing it by the end of January, with two weeks to spare, is an achievement particularly when you consider where we have come from," he said.

"The fact that we have been able to find another £150m to put into the budget, to put into key frontline public services and also to underpin economic growth and to get agreement on that, I think it's something we should be welcoming."

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