“However we can’t invite ourselves…”

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, was quick to claim a victory for OFMDFM’s “united case” after NI Secretary of State Owen Paterson said

“Having had discussions with the treasury, we are confident that having spent £9.8bn since 2005, that by 2017-18, we will be on track for Northern Ireland to have spent £18bn.”

But economist John Simpson was already looking at the potential small print

Economist John Simpson told the BBC that he believed a total of £14bn will have been invested in Northern Ireland by 2014-15, the end of the period covered by the Comprehensive Spending Review next week.

He added that he believed the government was then hoping that with an improved economy it would make up the rest of its commitment over the following three years.

And now the NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, wants clarity

Mr Wilson said he needed to clarify how much of this figure was dependent upon raising money by selling assets or taking on borrowing commitments.

“If he’s saying for example, once we get through the next four years a lot of that capital spending will be made available, that’s not going to be very helpful to us.

“If it’s dependent on us raising money from capital receipts and the Treasury allowing us to keep them, of course it’s difficult to sell assets at present, so it wouldn’t be very meaningful in the immediate period.”

And, in the background, there’s another story to tell.

As UTV’s Ken Reid noted on his blog on Wednesday

David Cameron indicated he would be talking to [the NI First and deputy First Ministers] before the 20 October Spending Review.

But still no sign.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are off to the United States at the weekend so time is running out.

After meeting George Osborne recently they argued the next stage of their strategy would be a meeting with the Prime Minister.

As UTV reported last night

Mr Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were hoping for a face-to-face meeting at Downing Street to argue Northern Ireland’s special case, before travelling to the United States at the weekend to attend an investment conference.

“I would have thought that it was important that we do have such a meeting. There are clear issues we need to discuss. However we can’t invite ourselves”, Mr Robinson told UTV.

Ken Reid adds

UTV’s Political Editor Ken Reid says Downing Street wants NI Secretary Owen Paterson to be the point of contact. [added emphasis]

“My sources at Downing Street are saying that in the past NI politicians have been able to go over to Downing Street at will; those days are over”, he explained.

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  • Brian Walker

    It will be quite a feat if FMDFM can succeed in their dubious legalistic arguments about the St Andrews deal.

    For English ministers, the route of appeal is through the Star Chamber, the expenditure committee of cabinet ministers who play a zero sum game: ” you want more, who’s going to lose”? This sort of bargaining will go to the wire, we’re told.

    But devolved ministers have no access to that committee and so are at a disadvantage. Owen Paterson will have little influence with the Treasury and anyway may not want to use what little he’s got.

    A final appeal to Cameron is always possible but if he won’t see them, that would seem to be that.

    McGuinness’ s comments may be about optics – we did all we could. Interesting that Robinson, the more experiienced operator in gov but less of a Downikng St luvvie in the old days, has not so far joined in the comment.

    Cameron ducking a final meeting in the present maelstrom of events doesn’t necessarily mean the NI settlement will be completely disastrous – just that he has nothing to add.. .

  • Bob wilson

    Just because Marty and Robbo play to the media doesnt mean they have had a victory at all.
    Do you really think that Cameron et al care what these two minor players think?
    Isnt it more of a case of Paterson having put arguments to the Leadership and the Treasury and having had them accepted?
    After all thats what happened over Corporation Tax. The combined forces of the local parties couldnt get Brown and the Treasury to go beyond Varney but Paterson won the argument with the Conservative Leadership and, it looks increasingly likely the Treasury.

    Of course now that it seems more likely to happen the local parties are getting cold feet. Boy do they like calling for things – the more unlikely they seem to happen the better!

    Why should Cameron meet McGuinness and Robinson they are completely unimportant at Westminster. Why dont they get on with running Stormont.
    Cameron has to run the country – they simply have to adminster a very small part of it

    Brian Walker is right these devolved ministers are at a disadvantage in terms of access – they are members of rival parties who spend their days pushing out press releases attacking the Tories – thank God we have Owen Paterson fighting our corner. But Brian if you think the legal agruments of St Andrews have anything to do with it your wrong. also why exactly has Paterson little access or influence in Treasury? I think events are proving you wrong on that!

    I know local journalists would like to play to the local audience and suggest this is some victory for our wee sectarian parties ‘fighting our corner’ but frankly there is no evidence for that at all

  • Alias

    “We need to begin to revive the private sector – I’ve got ideas for turning the whole of Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone.”

    That’s good. And I doubt that Arlene Foster will tell the viceroy to keep his nose out of devolved enterprise matters in the abrupt manner that Ms Ruane did when the viceroy’s interfering nose appeared in devolved educational matters recently.

    The key qualifier is that Northern Ireland is “on track” to have spent 18 billion by the specified date and not the Treasury specifically, so NI is going to have to make its contribution to the figure through its limited taxation powers or else borrowing it (the more likely option for those who don’t want to be unpopular and don’t care about the long-term debt they create for taxpayers).

  • Driftwood

    So there will be no actual cuts, we’re going to actually get more money? That’s what the £18 billion smoke and mirrors ‘investment’ would mean if it actually existed.

    BUT it turns out £9.8 billion has already been spent! On what?

    Owen has played a blinder over money that exists only in the ether. A facesaving exercise for Robinson and McGuinness so they can pretend they have influence.

    But that’s politics, a compliant media will dutifully report the good news that the Executive ‘working together’ of course, has saved the day.
    An example of how ‘working together’ can achieve ‘positive results’ etc etc, continued page 14 of the Belfast Telegraph…

  • Driftwood

    as seen on tv tonight
    it’s a mirage

    But it helps the process..

    Working together-united team-building concencus…

    as long as the pyjama wearers get their DLA, is the be all and end all

    We get the picture

  • “UTV’s Political Editor Ken Reid says Downing Street wants NI Secretary Owen Paterson to be the point of contact. [added emphasis]”

    If Downing Street want to play it that way, then surely the NI Secretary should OFDFM Executive Choice. Or is that too much like a mole in dodgy government?