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17 Nov 2005 : Column 1501W—continued


Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the reasons for the recent changes in funding for structural roads maintenance; what was the initial external budget for structural maintenance in each district council area in the financial year (a) 2003, (b) 2004 and (c) 2005–06; and what action is being taken to ensure that the allocation of funding for this purpose is sufficient to enable the targets set in the Regional Transportation Strategy to be met. [28440]

Mr. Woodward: The draft Budget provides that, by 2008, total Government spending in NI will exceed £16 billion, a jump of more than 50 per cent. since 1997. Public expenditure in NI is by far the highest figure for any region of the UK and is 29 per cent. higher than the UK average.

Notwithstanding this, there are many pressures on the Northern Ireland Budget and the roads' programme must compete for funding along with other spending programmes, The draft Priorities and Budget 2006–08 is presently out for consultation. It allocated additional resources for Health and for Education and this inevitably had some implications for other programmes including roads maintenance. It is expected that the revised Budget will be announced in December 2005.

The Regional Transportation Strategy (2002–12) identified strategic transportation investment priorities and considered potential funding sources arid affordability of planned initiatives over the 10-year period. It was explained in the RTS that the level of public expenditure funding for the strategy would be determined through the normal budgetary process, which will take account of the needs of other departments and decisions on priorities.

I should explain that Roads Service's maintenance budgets are not allocated at the outset of the financial year on a district council basis. Therefore, it is not possible to give an initial budget for structural maintenance in each district council area as requested. A breakdown of structural maintenance expenditure by district council is set out as follows for 2003–04 and 2004–05. It should be noted that these figures are based on the expenditure in the previous two financial years and that they include the contribution made by the Roads Service in-house contractor.

The structural maintenance budget for the 2005–06 year is currently £60.5 million, however a breakdown of this amount at the district council level cannot be provided at this stage.
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£ million

Structural maintenance
District council2003–04 outturn2004–05 outturn
North Down2.61.3
Newry and Mourne4.44.9
Total structural maintenance summary82.973.8

Total structural maintenance—summary

£ million

School Admissions

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to introduce legislation to change the admissions policy of schools in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [29551]

Angela E. Smith: I am considering the responses to the consultation on admissions arrangements and will announce my decisions on the way forward shortly.

School Transport

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the annual cost of school transport if the compulsory seat belt policy is implemented on school buses in Northern Ireland. [29206]

Angela E. Smith: The cost of the provision of seat belts on school buses is currently under consideration by the Department of the Environment in its assessment of the four key recommendations of the Northern Ireland Assembly's home to school transport public inquiry. It is expected that the findings of this work, which is being carried out in partnership with the Department for Regional Development and the Department of Education, will be published shortly.
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DOE is currently analysing the results of school bus occupancy surveys carried out in April/May and September this year which are informing the final stages of the assessment.

Security Guards (Crown Insignia)

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether security guards providing services to Northern Ireland Civil Service buildings wear Crown insignia. [619]

Angela E. Smith: The wearing of Crown insignia by support grades providing security guard services to NICS buildings is a matter for each Department to determine. Currently 67 staff are supplied with a uniform with Crown insignia. Some security guards for NICS buildings, are provided by private contractors who do not wear Crown insignia.

Sewage (Strangford)

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has (a) to improve the sewage system at Darragh Cross and (b) to upgrade the system to include the villages of Raffrey and Derryboye; and if he will make a statement. [2590]

Mr. Woodward: The Chief Executive of Water Service (Mrs. Katharine Bryan) has been asked to write to the hon. Member in response to this question.

Letter from Mrs. Katharine Bryan to Mrs. Iris Robinson, dated June 2005.

Social Work Students

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make social work degree students from Northern Ireland studying outside Northern Ireland eligible for bursaries. [25526]

Mr. Woodward: Northern Ireland students undertaking higher education courses in social work are entitled to receive support in accordance with the Education (Student Support) Regulations. Such support
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comprises income-assessed grants towards tuition fees, higher education bursaries, student loans and supplementary grants.

Separately, from the mandatory arrangements described above the DHSSPS administers an incentive scheme, designed to attract Northern Ireland domiciled students to study for social work in Northern Ireland, in order to best meet the needs of the Northern Ireland social services work force. Social work students from Northern Ireland intending to study outside Northern Ireland therefore fall outside the terms of the incentive scheme, but remain able to apply for the usual student support in accordance with the Education (Student Support) Regulations.

However, in light of experience in operating the scheme, the DHSSPS is planning to review, from an equality perspective, that aspect of the scheme that precludes support funding for students from Northern Ireland, studying outside Northern Ireland.

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