Akureyri to Open Service Centre for Victims of Violence

The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs and Children have agreed to earmark a combined ISK 24 million {$200,402; €176,854] in the establishment of a new service centre in Akureyri for victims of violence, Vísir reports.

The Akureyri Chief of Police will oversee the project in collaboration with a number of other organizations: the town of Akureyri, the University of Akureyri, the Akureyri Hospital, the Health Care Institution of North Iceland, the Kvennaathvarfið Women’s Shelter, the Kvennaráðgjöf Women’s Counseling Centre, the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, and Aflið, the Association Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. They hope to open by March 1, at which point, the new centre will provide free social support services and legal advice to adults who have been the victims of violence.

A similar centre, called Bjarkahlíð is already operational in Reykjavík. The new centre, which is being created at the behest of the North Iceland Police, is intended to serve individuals living in north and east Iceland. It will run as a pilot program for two years and receive its funding from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs, who are splitting the cost equally between them.


Budget Bill for 2019 Introduced

The Icelandic parliament’s 2019 budget bill was introduced in a press conference this morning. The proposal prioritises healthcare, in particular the planned building of a new national hospital and the construction and operation of nursing homes, RÚV reports. Funding for social support programs, housing, and child benefits will also be raised in the next year. The budget further addresses the development of infrastructure, as well as increasing contributions toward combatting climate change.

Police will receive an additional ISK 410 million ($3.6m/€3.1m) to respond to the increased burden associated with a growth in tourism. The contribution will support increased road traffic monitoring, particularly in the Central Highlands, as well as increased monitoring of popular tourists sites, and hiring additional staff to response teams.

“The treasury’s position has not been stronger for many years and GDP has rised sharply,” stated Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson at the press conference presenting the budget this morning. The budget outlines an increase in expenditure of around ISK 55 billion ($475m/€410m) balanced by an increase in revenue of almost ISK 52 billion ($450m/€388m).

ISK 7.2 billion ($62.3m/€54.7m) will go toward the construction of the new national hospital, while contributions to healthcare will be increased around ISK 12.6 billion ($111m/€95.7m). Transportation expenditures will increase by ISK 5.5 billion ($48.4m/€41.8m), and the budget accounts for the purchase of new Coast Guard helicopters, which are expected to be delivered in 2022.

The budget allocated towards housing will increase by over ISK 900 million ($7.9m/€8.6m). This will be split into various areas, including housing benefits for low earners, the construction of public housing, and tax credits for first-time homebuyers.

Bjarni says Iceland is emerging from a period of strong economic growth which is set to slow in the near future. “That means that the government can’t sustain as much spending as before,” he stated. “There is still leeway ahead however, if we take certain actions, such as the sale of government assets.” To this effect, the government intends to sell a Maggini violin in the care of the Symphony Orchestra which which has not been used for many years. The instrument, however, will be replaced by one more suitable for the orchestra’s current purposes.