Secretary of State has written to Civil Service asking for advice on budget raising measures

Possible increases include water charges, prescription charges and an increase in tuition fees.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, has written to the Permanent Secretaries of all the civil service departments. He is looking for advice and information on potential money raising options to improve the sustainability of public finances.

The measures being considered include the introduction of domestic water charges, prescription charges and an increase in higher education fees which would see them come in line with England – increasing from £4,395 to £9,250.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“Public finances in Northern Ireland are not currently on a sustainable footing.

“The UK Government stands ready to work with a restored Executive, but we have a responsibility to ensure the delivery of public services and management of public funds can continue in its absence.

“I remain firmly of the view that the right people to take these decisions are locally elected and accountable Ministers sitting in a fully functioning devolved government.

“I once again call on the Executive to get back up and running so that they can progress much needed and long promised public service transformation and address the systemic issues that are facing public services in NI.

“Simply spending more is not the answer to transforming NI’s public services and does not serve the best interests of the people of NI.”

What might be introduced?

The following options have been included in the letter:

  • Introduction of domestic water charges
  • Introducing of drug prescription charges
  • Raising higher education tuition fees to the same level as in England
  • Cessation of industrial derating
  • Reduction of concessionary fares schemes
  • Cessation of reduction of non-domestic vacant property relief
  • Introduction of domicillary care charges
  • Increase in Translink fares
  • Increase in MOT charges
  • Increased tariffs for on-street parking in specified areas
  • Options for removal of NI only support for industries compared to the rest of the UK, e.g. hauliers
  • Continuation of hospital parking charges

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