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Finance Minister, Conor Murphy has reflected on his twelve months in office at Stormont, a period that included the appearance of Covid-19 as well as Brexit. The period also included the department securing £1.3bn for City Deals,  a £20.5m Dormant Accounts Fund and the introduction of legislation permitting same-sex couples to marry.

Minister Murphy said “Within weeks of coming into office my Department had to respond to the Covid health emergency and its devastating social and economic consequences. An additional £3bn was secured to bolster the Health service, protect vulnerable people, and support businesses.

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Finance Minister, Conor Murphy. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“The normal remit of the Department of Finance is to provide funding to other Departments to deliver schemes. However my Department went over and beyond its remit to help deliver support. Land & Property Services (LPS) repurposed itself and took on an additional role to help deliver the 10k grants to nearly 25,000 small businesses. LPS also acquired new powers to deliver the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme for businesses forced to close. This is a very complex payment scheme and although some of the payments have been slower than I would have wished, £113m has so far been paid out to over 10,000 businesses.  We also provided support to our airports which will be essential in our recovery. Construction & Procurement Delivery (CPD) worked closely with other Departments to secure a £60m PPE order from China in what was a very competitive international market.   

“My Department is also responsible for rates policy. As well as an 18% reduction in business rates all companies were provided with a four month rates holiday. The sectors hardest hit, including retail, hospitality, tourism, airports and childcare received a 12 month rates holiday. I recently committed to extending the full year’s rates holiday to manufacturers.  

 “I’m proud of my Department’s role in implementing marriage equality. Legislation now enables same-sex couples to marry and to convert their Civil Partnerships to a marriage. We also ensured people who were terminally ill could get married during Covid and we provided support to the hospices who continue to do the most amazing work.

“The RHI Inquiry set up by my Department reported this year. A sub-committee of the Executive has been established to take forward its recommendations. Transparency, governance and accountability arrangements for Special Advisers and Ministers have been strengthened. My Department has also published details of Ministers’ and special advisers’ gifts, hospitality and meetings and special advisers declarations of interests.”

Achievements

  • Secured £3bn of Covid funding.
  • Secured the reinstatement of Confidence and supply funding.
  • Announced £1.3bn for City Deals and Inclusive Futures Fund.
  • Launched £20.5 million Dormant Accounts Fund to build sustainability of social enterprise, community and voluntary organisations.
  • Allocated funding for social enterprises and charities to support them during this period.
  • Allocated £1m for payments to victims of blood contamination.
  • £14m support package for hospices.
  • Helped deliver 10k grants to almost 25,000 small businesses.
  • Helped deliver over £14m financial support for airports.
  • £113m allocated to over 10,000 businesses under Localised Restrictions Support Scheme
  • Continued to pay government suppliers during pandemic.
  • Protected business from eviction due to non-payment of rent until end of 2021 financial year.
  • 4 month rates holiday for all businesses.
  • 12 month rates holiday for retail, hospitality, tourism, leisure, childcare, airports and manufacturing.
  • Delivered 18% reduction in regional rate for businesses.
  • Froze domestic regional rate.
  • Established Executive sub-committee to implemented Inquiry recommendations.
  • Strengthened transparency, governance and accountability arrangements for Special Advisers and Ministers.
  • Published details of Special Advisers and Ministers gifts, hospitality and meetings.
  • Implemented legislation permitting same-sex couples to marry and to convert Civil Partnerships to a marriage.
  • Ensure marriages and civil partnerships could be continued for terminally ill people during the pandemic.
  • Helped secure £60m PPE order from China.
  • Committed to incorporating Changing Places Toilets into Building Regulations. 
  • Restructured Procurement Board to include procurement experts and representatives from business sectors including construction, manufacturing, social enterprise and SMEs.
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