Northern Ireland

NI budget: CBI says student numbers cuts are 'nonsensical'

Students on graduation day
Image caption The Confederation of British Industry said the draft budget produced by Stormont ministers must be revised "to support the transition to a higher-skilled economy"

A Northern Ireland Executive budget that would reduce student numbers is "nonsensical", according to leading business organisation, the CBI.

Proposed cuts by the Department for Employment and Learning may mean 1,100 fewer university places from next year.

The CBI said: "The draft budget outcome, when set in those stark terms, is frankly nonsensical."

It said Northern Ireland must produce more skilled workers to continue to be attractive to overseas companies.

'Hugely damaging'

The Confederation of British Industry made its comments in its response to the Northern Ireland Executive's draft 2015-16 budget.

The CBI said financial allocations to the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), the Department of Enterprise and Invest NI "must be reviewed and revised to support the transition to a higher-skilled economy".

It added: "We accept efficiencies can and must be made, but the scale and time frame of the proposed cuts are potentially hugely damaging to our economic prospects."

The Northern Ireland Executive agreed its draft budget in October, shaped by a reduction of around £200m in the block grant from the Treasury.

It is due to be finalised by next month.

Charges

The CBI also said the executive needed to examine ways to raise money.

Among its suggestions are re-introducing prescription charges, increasing rates and cutting back on concessionary travel on public transport.

It said such moves are necessary for Northern Ireland "to say it is living within its means".

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