Stephen Farry stated: “This is a welcome, if somewhat overdue, development. While we reserve our position on the detail of the draft budget pending its publication and our analysis, the fact that the Executive has finally found a measure of agreement on the way forward does in itself bring some hope and a prospect of stability.
“With the publication of the UK Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October, our Executive had a major responsibility to strike a budget within the allocated financial resources, irrespective of individual party views on the nature of the UK-wide spending cuts and their particular impact upon Northern Ireland.
“Our Executive has fallen behind our devolved counterparts in Scotland and Wales in producing a draft budget. The delay and associated uncertainty has inhibited the ability of Government Departments to adequately plan, and also has caused difficulties for other organisations which normally receive government funds to make their own plans. Delays can easily turn into last minute and poor decisions, which further waster already scarce resources.
“Publishing a draft Budget this side of Christmas at least gives the prospect of some semblance of a public consultation. The 12-week consultation that best practice would suggest has long since become impossible. The Executive must stick to a firm timetable for the formal adoption of a budget and give Northern Ireland some degree of certainty into a challenging future.”