Economy Minister must explain repeated failure to properly utilise existing budget - Aiken

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Economy Minister must explain repeated failure to properly utilise existing budget - Aiken

Ulster Unionist Chairperson of Stormont’s Finance Committee, Steve Aiken MLA, has called on the Economy Minister to get a grip of finances within his Department. He was commenting after it was revealed that Gordon Lyons has handed back another £47m that was first set aside for Covid-19 economic recovery.

Dr Steve Aiken said:


“The thousands of businesses that have struggled as a result of the pandemic, and many that are still struggling, will likely be infuriated that the Economy Minister has handed back another £47.4m of Covid recovery funds, along with a further £3m of other Resource funding. This is the second time in two months Gordon Lyons has returned vast sums of money he failed to spend. Only late last year he returned another £41m of Covid support funding that was later reallocated to the Department for Communities.


“Whilst I do acknowledge the Executive’s efforts to try to reallocate funding it does strike me that some Ministers really need to get a grip of their budgetary position. It’s absurd that Gordon Lyons has been handing back so much money at the exact same time as he’s been saying he supposedly wants to see businesses better supported and compensated. Instead of supporting them he’s been abandoning them and not for the first time leaving it up to other Ministers and Departments to pick up the pieces and do the work that he himself should be doing.


“The latest January Monitoring round allocations will help address some wider short-term pressures across other Executive Departments, however I note a large sum remains unallocated. I applaud Robin Swann for so effectively handling the Department of Health budget, despite it being by far the largest of any Executive Department. Whilst the Ulster Unionist Party Minister was able to be innovative and closely manage funds to even deliver a further £25m pay rise for health workers it’s clear Gordon Lyons never even tried to do anything. The businesses of Northern Ireland deserve so much better.”