Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and member of the Stormont Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, has challenged the Finance Minister to divert some of his departmental underspend on stadiums into sports grounds in the North Antrim constituency.
Assemblyman Swann, who is North Antrim UUP Chairman and Party Sports Spokesman, issued his challenge following a budget debate in the Stormont Chamber.
Noting Mr Swann’s contribution to the debate, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said Mr Swann had raised the issue of funding for DCAL projects.
Mr Wilson said to Mr Swann: “I cannot make any commitments beyond this Budget period, but there will be a review of the Budget for the past two years.
“We are looking at where Departments have underspent and overspent, and that will present opportunities for all Departments to show where pressures arise as well as where there have been reduced pressures. The whole point of the review is to make adjustments,” said Minister Wilson.
Mr Swann asked: “I wanted clarity about the overall stadium allocation and the six-year funding package. If we take out money at the start, how can you guarantee that money will be there in next year’s budget?
“The Minister told me if money cannot be spent in a particular year, it has to be surrendered, and that is the right thing to do. The money could not be spent in that year.
“He said a sum of money has been allocated for stadium development, and it is in the Programme for Government. It may be that some of the money has to be surrendered this year to be spent in different years when the projects are ready to be up and running, according to Minister Wilson.
“The Minister also said where there is a Programme for Government commitment, as there is for stadia, if money is not used in one year because it could not be spent, there will be a strong case in later monitoring rounds.
“My challenge to the Minister is clear. Where there is an underspend or the money cannot be spent, then as much as possible of that funding should be diverted towards sporting clubs in North Antrim,” said Assemblyman Swann.
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