The 2022 Budget aims to tie-in with the government’s Island Plan and promises to ‘invest in our island’s future’.
When presenting the 2022 Budget in Tynwald this morning (Tuesday), Mr Ashford said: ‘As we move away from the challenges of the pandemic, we must ensure we have clear sight as to how we structure our spending and investment plans to ensure that we can continue to grow our economy, support our people and invest in our future.’
Mr Ashford emphasised the opportunities and challenges facing the new administration, and provided a comprehensive update which included a five-year financial programme focussed on fulfilling the aims of ‘Our Island Plan’.
As published within the Pink Book, government revenue spending for 2022/23 is budgeted at £1.15 billion, after accounting for reserve transfers.
The personal tax allowance has been raised by £250 to £14,500 for an individual and by £500 to £29,000 for jointly-assessed couples, while targeted increases have been made to benefits and allowances for parents, carers, pensioners and people with disabilities.
An overall deficit position, including the cost of the capital programme, is forecast to turn to a surplus by the end of 2024-25, with the position increasing each year through to 2026-27.
Government income is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024-25.
Mr Ashford announced that several internal funds will be created including a £25m Climate Change Fund which will help move the island towards its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, a Project Development Fund - with an initial balance of £2m - which will help government departments explore initial feasibility and development work associated with capital projects, and a £2m fund which will support the work of the newly-created Housing and Communities Board.
Existing funds, including those focussing on health and care transformation, medical indemnity, digital strategy, and agriculture and forestry, will see investment aimed at maintaining services and promoting economic development.
The budget will also see £2.74m committed to supporting additional educational needs provision within schools; and a further £15m will be allocated to support the island’s economic recovery.
Meeting the required growth funding for health and care services will be achieved for the forthcoming financial year by using a proportion of investment income generated by the Manx National Insurance Fund.
The Department of Health and Social Care will be provided with an additional £8.25m to fund Manx Care in this respect, and will have access to a further £5.08m of contingency funding to address cost pressures which may arise during the next year.
Mr Ashford said: ‘I understand that members and the public will be concerned about taking extra monies from the Manx National Insurance Fund at a time when we have already seen increased expenditure in relation to MERA and the Salary Support Scheme.
‘However, I feel that it is appropriate to take what, in effect, is a very small sum when compared to the overall value of the fund, currently worth over £1 billion, and to invest it in our health and care services.’
He added: ‘This is a one-off withdrawal, which is appropriate in these very unusual circumstances, and should the Treasury wish to use further amounts of investment income in future years it will have to come back to this Honourable Court to seek approval.’
Placing an emphasis on sustainable finances, Minister Ashford announced a review is to be undertaken by the Treasury in order to provide a clear direction for the scope, policies and funding strategy for the National Insurance Fund.
In addition, a project to transform the island’s social security system has been relaunched – after being paused during the pandemic – aimed at streamlining processes and modernising the way services are delivered, while ensuring it remains both equitable and affordable.
Mr Ashford revealed that providing ongoing support in relation to the pandemic has cost around £24 million during the current financial year to date through the various support schemes for individuals and businesses.
The 2022 Budget has been seconded in the Tynwald court by the Chief Minister Alfred Cannan.
The Treasury Minister is now fielding questions from MHKs, who will then vote for or against the Budget later today.