Are unionists ‘…committed to drastically lowering people’s standards of living’?

This is a quick companion piece to Mick’s on welfare reform cuts.

Gerry Adams issued a longish statement last week on the issue, which presumably can be taken as the current Sinn Féin position. These are a few relevant extracts:

The DUP has repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to participate positively in any of the institutions. Instead it has adopted a tactical approach aimed at serving the political agenda of a fundamentalist rump in their party rather than the needs of the whole community. As Martin McGuinness has noted ‘We are in government with unionists because we want to be. They are in government with us because they have to be.’ In other words the DUP and UUP have bought into the political institutions in terms of elections, salaries, and status but not into the need for real partnership government, the effective development of north-south co-operation, equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem. This overall shift to the right has left the DUP’s tactical engagement with the institutions threadbare…

Claims by unionists and loyalists that the objections of a handful of nationalist areas to orange parades going through their communities is an attack on the Orange is clearly a nonsense. The construction of an anti-Agreement unionist axis and the walk out are part of a unionist political agenda aimed at subverting the Good Friday Agreement and its equality and parity of esteem ethos. It’s about turning the clock back to the days when unionism was dominant. The anti-Good Friday Agreement axis within unionism, the pro-unionist stance of the British secretary of state, the refusal of Downing St to honour its own obligations, and its efforts to impose cuts in the welfare system, are combining to create the most serious threat to the political institutions in the north in recent years. The result of all of this is directly undermining power sharing and partnership government.

And on a ‘partisan British government':

The unionist leaderships have been encouraged in their posture by a British government that has not been fully engaged with the political process for four years. Evidence of this can be found in the British failure to back the Haass compromise proposals on dealing with the past and legacy issues, flags and symbols, and parades. It can be found in the speed with which the Cameron government acquiesced to Peter Robinson’s demand for the establishment of the Hallett Inquiry into the OTR issue. It is a fact that the Cameron government, like the Major government in the 1990’s, has been explicitly partisan in championing a unionist agenda. The Tory government has also failed to make progress on those matters arising out of the various agreements, including the Good Friday Agreement, the Weston Park Agreement, and the St Andrew’s and Hillsborough agreements which have not been implemented. These include the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights, Acht na Gaeilge, the North South Consultative Forum, the Civic Forum and the inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. These are not matters for negotiation. They are agreements made and are the responsibility of the British and Irish governments to implement. The effect of all of this and of the British government’s handling of the political situation has been to reinforce political logjams.

The political process is in trouble… [my emphasis]

In addition the Tory-led government in London wants to impose changes to the welfare benefits system mirroring similar changes that have been introduced in England, Scotland and Wales – changes that have resulted in disastrous consequences for the disabled, the unemployed and those in low paid jobs. These should be opposed by a united Executive. These changes are not about reform. They are about cuts and they are part of a Thatcherite agenda designed to dismantle the welfare state. And Sinn Féin will oppose them. Most worryingly there is no evidence from Downing Street or the NIO or the Unionist leaderships of any likelihood of a real negotiation on all of these issues commencing in September.

…and…

I believe that the political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.

The political reality for Sinn Féin is that casual (and generally meaningless) soundbites on the north get thrown around in political debates in the south. That suggests that the party is intentionally giving itself no room for manoeuvre here. Conveniently, Stephen Farry’s solo run on Magee has also exposed the extent to which power in the Executive is effectively decentralised, undermining the conceit that somehow ministers outside the OFDFM parties are powerless. Or that the other parties aren’t also *partners* in the Executive. And to emphasise the contrasting policies of Sinn Féin and the DUP (inter alia), Daithi McKay issued a direct challenge to supporters of the welfare cuts to openly defend them to their electorate:

I challenge unionists and those who support the Tory cuts agenda to go into their communities and attempt to explain why they are so committed to drastically lowering people’s standards of living, They need to explain to people struggling to get by in working-class areas the real impact of supporting a remote, unelected government of elites in London. Unionist leaders would be serving their electorate far better by uniting with those of us who are standing up for all communities, regardless of their political outlook, in resisting these savage cuts.

I doubt that the challenge will be taken up. For the DUP’s part, the intoxicating illusion of holding a balance of power in Westminster over-rides any concern about the impact of welfare cuts, if it actually had any to begin with. The prospect of fighting an Assembly election (a likely outcome of all this) over it’s support for a welfare cuts agenda may hold little appeal for a unionism that has expended so much political capital on cultivating its grievance myths among the communities most likely to be at the sharp end of those same cuts. It would be brave of the likes of the DUP and UUP to commit to, and actually articulate, a defence of the welfare cuts in the teeth of an electoral campaign instead of the usual sectariana like flags and parades. And that maybe makes an election less likely.

But, at some point, surely someone, from among the people they see as their electorate, will ask the DUP etc the question: why are so you committed to drastically lowering people’s standard of living?

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  • Mister_Joe

    Being so far away, I don’t fully understand what the impact of the “cuts” will be over there. People everywhere have suffered because of worldwide governments bending the knee to the banksters which is disgusting enough. But is the word “drastically” a reasonable one to use?

  • gunterprien

    They could cut the share that the “wee provence” pays for Trident. Or to the Royal family. etc.

  • Mister_Joe

    Don’t disagree, especially about the Trident. I just cannot understand why the UK wants/needs to pretend that they are still a world superpower. Who do they imagine they would fire nuclear missiles at?

  • mickfealty

    Thanks for picking this up John. I hadn’t bookmarked it at the time.

    You do make a fair point on the latitude individuals retain, but the greatest restraint comes from finance have which health and education are the greatest beneficiaries.

    What think I see going on here is an attempt to ship and narrative in advance of what could be a very close result in the Scottish referendum. 

    On one hand that’s clever politics. But, as ever, we have to ignore the fact that SF had the opportunity to shape what is in fact a better deal than the SNP in Scotland got from Whitehall.

    Thanks for picking this up John. I hadn’t bookmarked it at the time.

    You do make a fair point on the latitude individuals retain, but the greatest restraint comes from finance have which health and education are the greatest beneficiaries.

    Why think I see going on here is an attempt to ship and narrative in advance of what could be a very close result in the Scottish referendum. 

    On one hand that’s clever politics. But, as ever, we have to ignore the fact that SF had the opportunity to shape what is in fact a better deal than the SNP in Scotland got from Whitehall.

  • Reader

    Gerry Adams: I challenge unionists and those who support the Tory cuts agenda to go into their communities and attempt to explain why they are so committed
    to drastically lowering people’s standards of living…

    He should name those who ‘support the Tory cuts’, if he can find any. In reality, there is less money coming in, and the executive merely has to decide where the axe falls. A job they have performed spectacularly badly.
    What does Gerry mean by the phrase “resisting these savage cuts” anyway? For instance, are SF actually *doing* anything that would benefit from DUP support?

  • Newton Emerson

    I wonder how much SF acolytes are consciously deluding themselves in this debate: if the (extremely good) mitigation package SF agreed last year had not been nixed by Dubiln at the last minute, party loyalists would be supporting that now with as much energy as they are instead attacking ‘Tory cuts’.
    That’s politics I suppose. The worst duplicity in this debate is actually from NICVA, with its claim of £750m a year being “taken out” of the economy.
    Total welfare spending in NI is in fact projected to rise by £100m a year, every year, for the rest of the decade and the Treasury has budgeted for this. So NICVA’s complaint is of the “didn’t get the raise I deserved” variety – appropriately enough, given the culture of our so-called ‘voluntary sector’.
    And that’s basically the same complaint from SF and the SDLP. The difference is that – uniquely of all the devolved regions – they have the power, and hence the responsibility, to still give welfare the raise they think it deserves by cross-subsidising it from the block grant.
    The contortions people are going to to obscure this are laughable, not least the line that the DUP ‘don’t want’ to be in government with SF. When push comes to real financial shove, does SF want to govern at all?

  • chrisjones2

    A translation of Gerry’s statement into Plain English

    SF has repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to participate positively in any of the institutions. Instead it has adopted a tactical approach aimed at serving the political agenda of a fundamentalist rump in their party rather than the needs of the whole community. Martin McGuinness has noted ‘We are in government with unionists because we want to be” but the truth is his party in power behaves like 1960s Unionists and is only sharing power because they lost the war and have to . In other words SF have bought into the political institutions in terms of elections, salaries, and status but not into the need to abandon sectarian politics and forge a shared future. Instead we have a total lack of mutual respect and parity of esteem especially when it comes to the Orange Order . This overall shift to the right has left the SFs tactical engagement with the institutions threadbare and undermined all confidence…

    Demands by a handful of nationalist areas to annex common ground and exclude unionists and parades from it is yet another example of SFs attack on the Orange Order and Unionism. The construction of an anti-unionist axis of SF politicians and front ‘community organisations’ are part of a long running republican strategy to pervert he Good Friday Agreement and its equality and parity of esteem ethos. It’s about turning the clock back to the days when SF threatened to murder bomb and maim and the Blair Government capitulated. What have we come to when last week we couldn’t hold a simple march to glorify the Hunger Strikers – who we didn’t tell about a deal that would have saved the lives – without Unionist carping just because we trampled over the scenes of the murders of victims

    The SF refusal to accept that NI is still part of the UK (except for the purposes of providing cash) , the refusal of the British secretary of state, to be bullied and intimidated and the refusal of Downing St to honor its own obligations to give SF millions upon millions more to buy votes with are combining to create the most serious threat to the political institutions in the north in recent years and forcing SF to stamp its feet very had The result of all of this is directly undermining power sharing and partnership government in that SF cannot get more power and our own way

    The unionist leaderships have been encouraged in their posture by a British government that has not had us round for regular (Secret) private chats and cosy private deals behind the backs of everyone else in they process.. Evidence of this can be found in the British failure to force the Unionists to accept the Haass proposals which should have been enforced on Unionists It can be found in the speed with which the Cameron government acquiesced to Peter Robinson’s demand for the establishment of the Hallett Inquiry into the OTR issue exposing what we had been up to behind the scenes and the extent to which victims had been ignored while we parroted concern for their pain.

    It is a fact that the Cameron government has been scrupulously fair in insisting that we and the Unionist get on with it and talk together rather than running to Mammys apron (in secret) every five minutes to demand more concessions. We long for the days of the Major government in the 1990’s when we still had enough guns to blackmail them and push for more concessions to cement the process.

    The Tory government has also failed to make progress on those matters arising out of the various agreements, including the Good Friday Agreement, the Weston Park Agreement, and the St Andrew’s and Hillsborough agreements which have not been implemented. These include the Bill of Rights which noone but us and a few middle class Catholic quangoicrats want, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights which noone wants , Acht na Gaeilge which is up to us to negotiate but as we keep pissing off the Prods we cant , the North South Consultative Forum which noone knows what its for , the Civic Forum which everyone has forgotten and the inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane which we have now milked for a full generation and will still not agree a format for. Do they not realize that we have hundreds of community activists to keep busy and well paid l;est the get itchy trigger fingers again – but that’s not a threat you understand, merely an expression of reasonable republican outrage at the lack of progress?

    We keep claiming these are not matters for negotiation but even the Irish government is now fed up listening to the whinging. ”

    At this point Mr Adams appeared to lose it, ripped the head of the Teddy Brear he had been holding and threw it in the corner. Two SF Press officers immediately swept up the debris and assujred joiurnalists that ‘the bear thing never happened …capiche”

  • chrisjones2

    None – thats the point of having them

  • Croiteir

    It is a prestige thing too, gets them into the club of nuclear countries, all plays into the power games, seat on security council and all that. The US does not want them to drop trident. Watched Andrew Neil’s program on Scottish independence and it went through this as the English have no viable site for the subs to keep trident south of the border.

  • Morpheus

    Featured comment. Shock.

    Firstly, save the ‘SF acolyte’ nonsense – it very 1990’s of you. If you are going to throw your opinion out there then the least you can do is wait for a response before writing the respondent off as an acolyte or Shinner-bot or whatever other claptrap is being bandied about these days.

    The worse duplicity comes from NIVA does it? Prove it. I see nothing from the Finance Minister to debunk their analysis –

    (…when I say ‘their’ analysis I of course mean the analysis of the Christina Beatty, a Professor in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, and a statistician by background and Steve Fothergill, also a Professor within CRESR at Sheffield Hallam University, and an economist by background. So much for the culture of our so-called ‘voluntary sector’ eh?)

    …even though it has been in the public domain for the best part of a year. If the NICVA figures are wrong then tell me how much will be taken out of the Northern ireland economy and explain what we plan on doing to minimise that loss. How many job losses will it lead to? How many business will go under?

    Have you got any evidence that despite all this talk of Welfare cuts/reform welfare payments will actually increase by £100m a year? Are we supposed to just take your word for it?

    I am open to persuasion here, if you can prove to me that we know how much will leave our economy and that there is a plan in place to minimize the impact then I am all ears. I’ll be right here on the edge of my seat

  • Comrade Stalin

    “drastically lowering people’s standard of living”

    Not once have SF or their supporters explained what is being lowered or how.

  • kensei

    Anyone who gives a nominal value as evidence for a rise deserves a kick in the head. No wait, repeated kicks to the head.

    You might well be right, but without knowing the total welfare bill and projected inflation, I can’t tell if it is a real terms increase or decrease. Without knowing the projected growth in population, I can’t tell if it is a per capita growth or cut. Care to supply the info?

  • Newton Emerson

    The Treasury forecast you asked for is on Table 2.17 here:
    http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/pubs/83723-March_2014_EFO_Fiscal_Supplementary_Tables.xls

    You need to add both the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ welfare cap items to get the projected spending total.

    The fact NICVA outsourced its advocacy research to two academics does not negate the point that they added up ‘money never to be put in’ and described it as ‘money taken out’. The disingenuous nature of their English does not inspire confidence in their maths.

    The mitigation package SF agreed last year is outlined here. Its approach to the bedroom tax was excellent – real practical devolutionary politics. Too bad Gerry decided his southern ‘activist’ image was more important.
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/bedroom-tax-deal-wins-northern-ireland-a-fouryear-reprieve-29633007.html

  • Morpheus

    £750m a year not going into NI’s tills will result in businesses going under, job losses, increases in the unemployment figures, increases in social security payments, increase in mortgage arrears, increase in the numbers relying on food banks etc. I have no idea how much of an increase/decrease…but then again, does anyone?

    If they are wrong then by all means I am welcome to someone, anyone, actually proving it. Hell I will settle for someone confirming that they know how much is leaving our economy and that there is a plan in place. I want reassurance that NI PLC’s policy is “ack sure we’ll do it and see what happens, it’s only those who can least afford it that will suffer”

  • Newton Emerson

    If you look at the ‘GB Benefits and Tax Credits’ chart below (bearing in mind GB spending in NI is what reform is about) you’ll see welfare spending is projected to grow in nominal and real terms, but to fall per household and as a share of GDP (because of course that’s also what reform is about).

    http://tinyurl.com/ogkkpna

    BTW, a kick in the head to everyone who thinks public spending must always have its inflationary discount. Public spending under a deficit is what *causes* inflation…

  • Morpheus

    How did you get from an estimated increase in total UK social security payments from £180b to £203.3b until the end of the decade to “Total welfare spending in NI is in fact projected to rise by £100m a year, every year, for the rest of the decade and the Treasury has budgeted for this”?

    If the Government intend to increase the welfare payments here in Northern Ireland by £100m “every year, for the rest of the decade” then what is the point in these welfare reforms? If it’s to get people back to work then I ask again, back to what work? The DSD’s own figures have benefit fraud at a fraction of 1% so it can’t be that. Simplifying the system? Hardly.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10172464/Welfare-reform-has-collapsed-after-latest-delay.html

    If you feel you are in a position to debunk the NICVA report and the work of these academics then by all means get your detailed analysis up for scrutiny – because this Finance Minister sure as hell hasn’t. Give is the *real* figures for how much will be taken out of the economy. Give us the *real* projected unemployment figures. Give us the *real* plan. Above all, tell us how much would have already been taken out of our economy of SF did what the DUPers did and rolled over 12 months ago. Where is their fight for the people of Northern Ireland?

  • Newton Emerson

    I gave you the figures above, and I’m not ‘dubunking’ NICVA’s figures. My point is NICVA has described a lesser increase than would otherwise have occurred as money ‘taken out’. It is merely less money put in.
    That amount will not vary whatever SF and the DUP do, did or will agree. The Barnett formula and benefit cap, determining Stormont’s block grant and welfare budget respectively, will stay the same. All that differs is how SF and the DUP want to move money between those two separate budgets.

  • Michael Henry

    It’s all to do with the general elections next year stupid-the DUP might be needed to shore up the Next Tory government and the DUP don’t want Martin McGuinness to become First minister in 2016-

    And the drastic plan to stop this- the DUP to vote yes to the Tory’s cut agenda and the Assembly to collapse before the next Assembly elections because of Tory fines-the DUP Tory axis are trying to subversive democracy-

  • Morpheus

    You gave me estimated UK figures but didn’t explain how you extrapolated them to Northern Ireland and where the £100m came from or what all the fuss is about if the plan is not to cut welfare as everyone seems to think but actually increase it by £100m a year until the end of the decade.

    NICVA’s conclusion is that “When the present welfare reforms have come into full effect they will take £750m a year out of the Northern Ireland economy.” In other words £750m a year won’t be going into NI tills. A sensible conclusion I would’ve thought. If anyone knows any different then they should produce it. Simon Hamilton sure as hell hasn’t.

    As I said before, even the Shinners know that cuts have to happen – we get 25% per head spent on us than the English – but surely rather than blindly making cuts (with no thought to the consequences) which directly affect those who can least afford it why not find out how much Westminster thinks NI should live on and then come up with a plan to live within those means as a country – like every home and business in the world.

    At this stage it is also worth looking at all of NICVA’s key points because they offer a useful insight:

    When the present welfare reforms have come into full effect they will take £750m a year out of the Northern Ireland economy. This is equivalent to £650 a year for every adult of working age.

    The financial loss to Northern Ireland, per adult of working age, is substantially larger than in any other part of the UK. Belfast is hit harder by the reforms than any major city in Britain. Derry and Strabane are also hit very hard, and generally across Northern Ireland the most deprived areas face the largest losses. [A cynic would say this is the real reason why the DUP are so keen on blindly implementing the cuts

    • In terms of the financial impact, Northern Ireland districts occupy three of the four top spots across the whole of the UK, seven out of the top 20 and eleven out of the top 50. Bearing in mind that there are only 26 local government districts in Northern Ireland, out of more than 400 in the UK, this is a disturbingly high representation.

    • The biggest financial losses to Northern Ireland arise from reforms to incapacity benefits (£230m a year), changes to Tax Credits (£135m a year), the 1 per cent up-rating of most working-age benefits (£120m a year) and reforms to Disability Living Allowance (£105m a year).

    • The Housing Benefit reforms result in more modest losses – an estimated £20m a year arising from the ‘bedroom tax’ for example – but for the households affected the sums are nevertheless still large.

    • Some households and individuals, notably incapacity and disability claimants, are hit by several different elements of the reforms.

    • The exceptionally large impact of the reforms on Northern Ireland owes much to the UK’s highest claimant rates of incapacity benefits and Disability Living Allowance, two of the
    main targets for reform.

    • By lowering incomes more than elsewhere, a key effect of the welfare reforms will be to widen the gap in prosperity between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

    If their analysis is wrong then I remain all ears

  • kensei

    BTW BTW a kick in the head for anyone that applies economy wide changes to particular sectors. What you mean is:

    “Public spending under a deficit can cause inflation under certain circumstances”

    UK Inflation is 1.5%, under it’s 2% target, and if it falls lower we’ll get in dangerous deflation/noflation territory. When it does come about, it is much more likely to be driven by wages in the private sector. I’ve seen no evidence that welfare spending is currently causing any inflationary pressure, or even that the UK’s debt situation means that bondholders are demanding higher interest rates and potentially introducing a different inflationary mechanism. Perhaps you’d care to cite some evidence here? Note: speculation by right wingers is not admissible.

    Secondly, the Tory goal is to reduce welfare spending per household and as a share of GDP. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the goal of *reform* should be that – it could equally be a rebalancing of the pot. There are also several ways to achieve that end that don’t involve bedroom taxes and punishing assessments of the vulnerable. Raising GDP would do it, as would more jobs. but hey,. welfare trap and them layabouts just aren’t looking hard enough for a job, or whatever.

  • Morpheus

    I fecking love it when people know their shizzle like that :)

  • chrisjones2

    The question you ask is impossible to answer. As Newt points out above the £750m a year cut actually equates to a rise of £100m in cash. So first off we see a rise in cash but a cut in real terms. Next is the issue of where that money is spent. If that goes on for example drinks and non JTI cigarettes manufactured outside NI then most of the money immediately leaves NI., If it goes on food, alcohol and cigarettes made here etc then the money multiplier effect kicks in and the value in the economy will actually grow. So it all depends on who spends the money and what they spend it on. who knows – but it will be a lot less than the shroudwavers predict

  • chrisjones2

    “lowering people’s standards of living”

    for some the most drastic impact may be forcing them into work. And this is a bit rich from the president of an organisation that destroyed thousands of jobs and left the community that elected him for so long an economically emaciates shell with a strong dependency culture

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    The only party truly committed to drastically lowering people’s standard of living here in NI is SF, for if its commitment to a united Ireland were to be enacted tomorrow, people here would be worse off financially given the inability of the RoI to subsidize and support NI the same way that Britain can. SF are the real cutters, the cutters of billions all over an ideology which financially would leave this place in a mess.

  • Morpheus

    What on God’s green earth has a united ireland got to do with welfare cuts?

    (and for the record, this place is already a mess)

  • Newton Emerson

    Table 2.17, as linked previously above, contains figures specific to NI. http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/pubs/83723-March_2014_EFO_Fiscal_Supplementary_Tables.xls

    The point about £750m not being ‘taken out’ of the economy has now been answered repeatedly.

    NI did come up with a plan – between SF and the DUP – to mitigate the impact of welfare reform. I’ve linked to that previously as well.

    You’re just repeating yourself, despite being repeatedly answered.

  • chrisjones2

    • The biggest financial losses to Northern Ireland arise from reforms to incapacity benefits (£230m a year), changes to Tax Credits (£135m a year), the 1 per cent up-rating of most working-age benefits (£120m a year) and reforms to Disability Living Allowance (£105m a year).

    Morpheus

    Take DLA as an example. I seem to recall a few years back an elderly lady in West Belfast had a car that was being used as transport at times by an MLA. I am sure that was all totally legitimate

    DLA is the greatest scam the benefits system has seen Three years ago a colleague in his 30s was diagnosed as diabetic. We were all very sympathetic. He was delighted…absolutely delighted. He explained that he could now claim DLA – like his wife parents and step parents. He quickly claimed that he could no long work shifts or irregular hours and got himself made redundant as the firm couldn’t accommodate his required working pattern We haven’t seen him much since but he is driving a new large people carrier that those of us in work couldn’t afford

    I appreciate that many many people need DLA but equally many many are sucking the lifeblood out of the social care system and our politicians all seem to support this as these re people who bother to vote

  • Morpheus

    What’s a shroudwaver?

    Newt failed to show how he went from an estimated UK budget to this £100m year on year increase in welfare payments in Northern Ireland so I would hold off on quoting that for a while.

    So you don’t know how much will leave the NI economy, is that the trust of what you are saying? So how do we cut the NI cloth? If we don’t know what our means are then how are we supposed to live within them?

    You talk of the multiplier effect, explain how that kicks in in NI if the people don’t have the money to spend in the first place.

  • Morpheus

    Ill-informed rubbish. You are trying to use unverifiable anecdotal myths to prove some sort of widespread abuse of the welfare system. Poor show.

    Do people abuse the system? Absolutely. But that is because the system is not robust enough to prevent it and while there are weaknesses in the system the unscrupulous will try to capitalize. The DSD’s own figures had benefit fraud totalling £19m in 2011 – compare that to the total payments in social security in the same year – £7,319m – and it comes back as a quarter of 1% meaning 99.75% of all payments were not fraudulent. We could easily spend an extra £10m to make the system more robust eradicating fraud and we’d *still* be £9m a year better off.

  • Michael Henry

    Britain will still be paying reparation costs in the billions to Ireland long after a United Ireland- they are going to find it hard to shake us off-

  • Newton Emerson

    I gave you a very specific reference in table 2.17 of the link above, regarding the inside and outside cap projections, to show welfare spending here has been budgeted to increase by £100m a year to the end of the decade. Have you not looked at, despite requesting it? For shame.

  • Morpheus

    Fair enough, I see the NI figures now but this document raises more questions than it answers. The estimated total ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ spend on social security payments in Northern Ireland breaks down as follows:
    2013-14 – £5.4b
    2014-15 – £5.5b
    2015-16 – £5.7b
    2016-17 – £5.8b
    2017-18 – £5.9b
    2018-19 – £6.0b

    The most recent net fiscal balance sheet has Northern Ireland’s social security payments totalling over £7.9b in 2011/2012…how do we get from £7.9b to the £5.4b so we can enjoy these £0.1b increases per year until the end of the decade?

    At in 2020, when the population of NI has increased by over 100,000 we will have social security payments roughly the same as 2006 levels? Is that realistic?

    As for NICVA I see nothing in what you have said that would make me conclude that their analysis is wrong. But even if it is wrong I want the real figures

  • Morpheus

    For shame? Seriously?

    Read my other post which I just put up

  • chrisjones2

    Ill informed rubbish and unverifiable myths?

    I have seen them. I know the guy concerned. As you wish to descend to low abuse then as we say in Belfast “Boll*cks” – you are simply divorced from realities

    You say DSD figures show fraud as just £19m – well they would wouldn’t they as they only count the fraud they know which is a the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who even thinks you can run a major payment system like benefits with such a low fraud level is delusional

    Try working in a real business and you will see the number of staff who have what they call their ‘DSS Drop’ address for benefits as opposed to where they really live. I have seen prospective employees walk out of interviews when asked for proof that the address they are using is real. Every time we advertise jobs I am sick of the phone calls ‘will you pay cash?” Answer “No” and they hang up. Not the odd one. Every one. One actually challenged me “Why not” and got the straight answer “we wont employ you because you are a thief”

    We see this literally every week – and that is just the fraud side

    The much much bigger problem with my little diabetic friend is that he is doing nothing wrong. He is actually ENTITLED to DLA under the old rules – and THAT is the problem. I am sure his entire family are entitled to their claims too. We have bred an entire culture that means people doint have to work even when they are capable to do so.

    Lets be clear too. I want people who NEED benefit to have it and perhaps at higher levels than now. Funded by getting the workshy into productive employment – but here’s the rub – who in their right minds would employ them

  • Newton Emerson

    Have you added the public sector pension bill to social security to arrive at that £7.9bn figure????

  • chrisjones2

    Those who appear in the media waving metaphorical shrouds and claiming people will die because of these cuts or that policy or this terrible imposition. Usually Union Sponsored and most often seen around the edges of the NHS and welfare state

  • Morpheus

    LOL, I wouldn’t even know where to look for that so no, no I didn’t.

    :)

  • Newton Emerson

    I think you must have, as it’s around £2.5bn and you’re around £2.5bn out.

  • barnshee

    “they could cut the share that the “wee provence” pays for Trident. Or to the Royal family. etc.”

    The wee provence pays for very little —they could remove/cut the subvention if they wanted to save more — buy a few more Tridents

  • Morpheus

    Wow, hold the phone. I am not doubting that you believe in what you say but when we use anecdotal evidence another person can come along and say exactly the opposite with their anecdote and it holds about as much water.

    As it stands, the government’s own figures had benefit fraud in NI at £19m back in 2011 but if it was more (or substantially more and you seem to suggest) then that’s a fault of the system for not being strong enough to prevent it. As with the banking and legal systems – or any system for that matter – weaknesses in the system are exploited. And it’s wrong.

    I agree with you, I appreciate that the system is being abused and I too only want people who NEED benefit to have it – that is why I suggested investing heavily in making the system more robust – but in a NI where there are over 52,000 on the unemployment register and only 3000 jobs advertised today on Recruit NI, almost a quarter temporary or contract work, I refuse to believe that they are on the unemployment register simply because they are workshy

  • Newton Emerson

    If you’re getting your £7.9bn figure from table 2.6 in this (http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/ni-net-fiscal-balance-report-2011-12.pdf) then that’s “social protection” (not social security) – and it includes social care.

  • Morpheus

    I got it from page 31 of this

    http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/ni-net-fiscal-balance-report-2011-12.pdf

    The report doesn’t mention if the public sector pension figures are included or not.

  • gunterprien

    Morpheus. posted the figures re the Block grant. Over £1 Billion was for defence.
    Now, Since the North doesn’t have a defence budget ( That is controlled by London) Then London could just cut a slice from that budge and deduct same from block grant..Simple. No? If they are interested in making savings.

  • chrisjones2

    How many are on Job Centre online?

    |I don’t disagree on part of that or that many on the Register are actively seeking work. If we assume there are perhaps 4000 jobs available at the moment that is a rolling figure with a lifespan of say 5 weeks from advert to recruitment – that means about 800 people get a job via those ads every week – that would suggest 65 weeks on average on the Register – that’s far too long which emphasis why we need to grow jobs in the real visible job market

  • Morpheus

    I don’t mean this to be rude, I just find it funny and it cracks me up :)

    2857 – a cursory glance tells me that they are mostly the same jobs as Recruit NI. But yeah, let’s take your 4000 jobs (which for the record is 4000 jobs too many and they should be filled) even if they were all taken tomorrow with the primary intention of these welfare reforms supposedly to get people back to work what work does the other 48,000 go back to?

    So yeah, I totally agree, we need to create more jobs. Each new job increases the government’s income from taxes, decreases payments made through social security and increases the self worth and esteem of the worker. Winners all around.

    Or alternatively we can blindly implement these cuts and take even more money from those who can least afford it while big business gets away with this:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/22/vodafone-tax-case-leaves-sour-taste

  • Morpheus

    It seems we have gone into a grey area.

    Does ‘social care’ = public sector pension bill? Do you know where can I confirm that social protection = social security payments + social care? How do we get estimates until the end of the decade so we can compare like with like? Why do DFPNI include social care in their figures and the government estimates don’t?

    At the minute I am not entirely convinced that we should be grateful if the government takes a great big whack off us now and then gives some of it back to us a bit at a time over an extended period.

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry…my point ins that the shelf life of an advertised job is about 5 weeks before it is filled …then other jobs appear. Some of those are new jobs an some recycled through retirement, illness or bankruptcy. They key issue isnt the numbers its the churn rate ie how long someone might wait to get a new job. Bear in mind too that the figures contain a reasonably thick crust of unemployables

  • Zeno1

    “You’re just repeating yourself, despite being repeatedly answered.”

    That’s par for the course with Morhp.

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    ‘I don’t mean this to be rude, I just find it funny and it cracks me up ‘

    I bet you have no problems getting your day in…

  • Morpheus

    What an excellent addition to the debate – well done you

  • Comrade Stalin

    For Martin McGuinness to become then Sinn Féin three conditions have to be fulfilled.

    1. nationalists have to be the largest designation.
    2. Sinn Féin have to be the largest nationalist party.
    3. Sinn Féin have to be the largest party in the assembly.

    At 29 seats to the DUP’s 38 (3) seems unlikely to happen at any time in the near future. Sinn Féin’s vote in the 2014 elections is basically unchanged from the 2011 Assembly and council elections so it seems unlikely they will make any further gains.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Yeah but residents in Northern Ireland have benefited from cuts to income tax and alcohol duties implemented by the Coalition (offset to some extent by the increase in VAT). We’ve also had cuts to airline taxes – the Assembly/Executive voted to accept a cut in the block grant in order to implement this – and there have also been changes to corporation tax and reforms of the tax structure to encourage businesses to invest R&D. These allow businesses who invest to pay less tax.

    So the Northern Ireland economy is not in some sort of vacuum with £750m being extracted from it.

    Now of course you can quibble whether these Tory policies are going to have an effect or not (my own employer told us that they were increasing R&D investment as a direct result of the tax reforms). But I don’t hear anyone on the Sinn Féin side of this argument suggesting that we should hand all of those tax reforms back.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The UK have a permanent seat on the Security Council and it is nothing to do with their status as a nuclear power (apart from the USA, none of the permanent members had the Bomb when the council was started in 1946). The WW2 Allies awarded the permanent seats to themselves.

    But that aside, yes, it’s certainly about prestige. I am not sure the USA prefers the UK to be nuclear armed (it refused to provide assistance to the UK’s bomb research back in the day) but I very much doubt the UK’s nuclear arms could ever be deployed without the go ahead from the US.

    The UK should scrap Trident and spend the savings on upgrading the national infrastructure, starting with High Speed 2.

  • chrisjones2

    When you get £8bn net a year hoiw can you argue that you ‘pay’ for anything

  • chrisjones2

    Spoke like a true Irish patriot

  • Morpheus

    That changed at St Andrews CS

    “A First Minister and a deputy First Minister are nominated by the largest and second largest parties respectively to act as co-chairs of the Executive Committee.”

    http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/your-executive.htm
    http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/the-northern-ireland-assembly

    So with this…

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/elections/sinn-fein-emerges-as-biggest-party-in-northern-ireland-dup-claims-most-seats-30301917.html

    …it is a very real possibility therefore it will be the stick the DUP use to beat their electorate at the next assembly elections.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Read the legislation, section 16C of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as amended.

    ======================
    (6)If at any time the party which is the largest political party of the largest political designation is not the largest political party—

    (a)any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(4) or 16B(4) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party; and

    (b)any nomination to be made at that time under section 16A(5) or 16B(5) shall instead be made by the nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation.

    ======================

    So if SF are the largest party of the largest designation, but are not the largest political party, then the largest party gets OFMDFM.

    You are right – this was designed by the DUP to discourage people from splitting the unionist vote.

  • Morpheus

    As I said, that has since changed. It is now the largest and second largest parties, designation has been taken out of it. Slugger coverd it here

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/03/29/the-end-of-community-designation-and-the-rise-of-incumbency/

    and here

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/02/04/towards-a-sinn-fein-first-minister-how-we-got-here/

    But Hansard records show Trimble talking about it in more detail:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/61122-0008.htm

  • Comrade Stalin

    I know it changed at St Andrew’s as prior to then the OFMDFM had to be nominated and voted for on the assembly floor.

    The paragraph I quoted above is taken from the amended legislation. The amending legislation is the Northern Ireland (St Andrew’s Agreement) Act 2006. Here’s the section that adds the amendment.

    The legislation still specifies (see section 16A) that the FM comes from the largest party of the largest designation, and the DFM comes from the largest party of the second-largest designation. But section 16C effectively overrides this to say that in the event that the largest party in the assembly is not the largest party of the largest designation, it is that party which gets the First Minister seat.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I just read Trimble’s contribution in the Lords – he is saying the same thing as me (but he said it first). It’s a dirty little device added at the last minute for electoral purposes precisely as he outlined.

  • Morpheus

    What can I say, I don’t update that website.

    But yeah, it was an obvious deal to ensure that they both have a stick with which to keep power. But it could come back and bite the DUP a lot sooner than expected.

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    You just don’t like Newton Emerson as he has a reputation of providing quality contributions much better than your own and you are out to challenge him to prove you are better at commenting and opining.

  • Morpheus

    To be fair on this one CS this was a dirty little device to ensure that the DUP stays top dogs in Unionism. They will forever have a stick with which to beat the unionist electorate into line.

  • Zeno1

    Where does it say that in the GFA or anywhere?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d think that borrowing money to pay social welfare rather than developing an economy that can look after its own less “successful” from actual revenue is a recipe for “drastically lowering people’s standard of living” sooner or later, when the interest becomes more than any government can persuade our real masters, the Banksters, to lay out.

    But, hey! we’re all simply pensioners one way or another of the British government’s borrowed money so who cares! I used to think that “independence” actually meant being self sufficient……….

  • Comrade Stalin

    Britain hasn’t paid reparation costs to a single one of it’s ex-colonies. Why would Ireland be an exception, especially as the British never paid any reparations to the already-independent 26 ?

    The ability of SF koolaid drinkers to delude themselves never ceases to amaze or entertain.

  • John Ó Néill

    I think this is an excellent synopsis of all that is wrong with the unionist position. The study into the impact was not by NICVA, it was by Prof Christina Beatty and Prof Steve Fothergill both in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. One a statistician, the other an economist.
    Both have extensive records of research and publication on local and regional trends across the UK, and on the benefits system.
    They clearly set out the impacts. Why should we set aside their expertise here and accept the non-specialist(?) interpretation of an, eh, unionist acolyte? And why keep referring to it as NICVA rather than CRESR or Hallam University?

  • Newton Emerson

    The study was commissioned by NICVA, hence the reference to it as NICVA’s. It is classic advocacy research. The total the authors arrived at can be disputed ad nauseam but NICVA’s description of that total as “taken out of the economy” is indisputably untrue.
    It is money that will never – and has never previously – been put in.

  • John Ó Néill

    The total the authors arrived is based on data sources they list and via a methodology they describe in the report. The have carried out baseline research for the welfare ‘reforms’ as a whole and so I wouldn’t have too many concerns about their capacity or credibility as researchers in this area. They use the data to arrive a series of figures for impacts, actual cuts, to people’s income that will arise from these reforms. Regardless of the spin NICVA put on it, the baseline figures, which Beatty and Fothergill assess as being a £650 per working person reduction in actual income have to be taken at face value. Unless you want to go in and systematically go through their data and methodology and calculations and arrive at a different figure, I don’t see any critique or analysis here on your part that is any more sophisticated than the lack of unionist defence of the ‘reforms’ that is being challenged.
    And, as Beatty and Fothergill also point out, the fact that the projected reduction in income averages out as £650 per working person has to be considered in the light of the fact that the reality is that the projected reduction will fall on those in receipt of various state payments and will be much higher and more acute. And as others here have pointed out (and I assume no-one challenges), state payments generally go to people who are living week to week. So that money is immediately put back into the economy so the projected reduction can be extrapolated into a broader loss of money into the local economy.

    There is a broader governance issue here, too (and this isn’t any kind of dig at you, Newton, this applies equally in the south and elsewhere). What is the point in acquiring specialist input (such as this) and then completely disregarding it’s outputs and conclusions in public debate, or department policy/strategy? I suspect the most despairing thing for most interest groups is seeing informed advice being immediately over-rode by government advisers who have no authentic expertise in the area and are using a value system solely calibrated against political concerns rather than governing.

  • Newton Emerson

    I hate to wave a diploma at you but as you’ve asked twice about my qualifications, I have an economics degree and that certainly qualifies me to have a chuckle at the idea that these type of costings are ever a precise science.
    The Treasury is projecting (and has budgeted for) demand-led welfare increases in NI of £100m a year every year for the rest of the decade, which is an increase both in real terms and per capita. In no sense whatsoever is money being “taken out” of our economy and that is the sole objective critique NICVA offered.

  • John Ó Néill

    I think NICVA’s position is a bit more nuanced than that as they claim they are talking about spending in real terms. The top line figures you are quoting are rises barely in line with current inflation (presuming it sits just below 2%). The apparent rise in spending will only match current expenditure if the number of people reliant on payments from that budget stayed the same. Given the proportion of that budget that is absorbed by pension payments, and the fact that the population is aging, year on year more people are going to be receiving payments from effectively the same budget, adjusted for inflation.
    Many of the changes are real cuts in the sense that the formula for calculating them will have changed and will bring the level of payments down, ie there is no logic that can present it as not being a cut. The only logic is defending the reduced rate, not claiming it isn’t happening.

  • Newton Emerson

    NICVA’s “money taken out” claim is essentially one of hydraulic Keynsianism – just like Sammy Wilson’s philosophy, really – where all that matters is the total spending in our economy as propped up out from outside.
    On that point they have no case, as total spending on welfare is not going to fall. And that’s really all there is to it.
    On the broader point of this kind of thinking – which is almost universal in Northern Ireland – Keynes himself only envisaged borrowing one or two percentage points of GDP for one or two years to shunt an economy out of a recessarionary low-employment equilibrium. The scale of routine state borrowing the UK experienced (and still is experiencing) before and during this recession would rightly have struck him as completely insane. It has to be tackled UK-wide eventually, or we’ll be Argentina, not Northern Ireland.

  • John Ó Néill

    I think there is a difference here between the macro-economic policy and philosophy and the street-level reality. At a higher level, there are obviously broad ideological considerations around how and why a government funds what it chooses to do. That wouldn’t really be something that a lot of people give much of their time to thinking about.
    At an individual level, the impact of these welfare reforms will mean that people will have less money in their pockets, relative to the cost of living. I think that’s the real impact on individuals (and appears to be what NICVA are trying to articulate). Whether many or any of them have much concern for the proportion of GDP the state is borrowing year on year is doubtful. Telling people that the amounts being spent are going to go up, when the value of the amounts they individually receive will go down would seem a bit disingenuous.

  • Newton Emerson

    Tell it to disingenuous NICVA! Also, tell SF to restore the excellent mitigation package for individual claimants they worked out last year with the DUP…

  • John Ó Néill

    Am I to take that you are agree that people will be getting less money because of the ‘reforms’?

  • Croiteir

    I do not agree with the first paragraph. You are correct as far as the history is concerned. However I want to pass a couple of points by you for consideration.
    Firstly the UK. The argument is being framed as the scots “leaving” the UK. This is not necessarily true, the UK may well de dissolved. No UK. Just Scotland and England reverting to the pre 1705 situation. In which case the UK seat ceases to exist. For England to keep the seat the UN Charter will have to be rewritten. Bet there will be many wanting to influence that process.
    Secondly – the world power bases are shifting. How will speak for the emerging South American continental countries, India has joined the space race countries. Do you seriously think the model of we won the war will be sustainable? Do you seriously think that the rest of the world looks on without murmur. If there ever was a carve up ready due be looked at again it is the security council. And this referendum could/should/would trigger such a review.

  • Morpheus

    Maybe take that as a yes.

    The trick now is finding out how much less and what impact it will have.

  • Newton Emerson

    Individuals are going to lose money through the bedroom tax – because SF scuppered its own deal with the DUP to mitigate that by phasing it in over four years, for new claimants only, at a cost of just £17m a year from the block grant and sliding, while smaller housing units were built.
    Alas, Gerry decided his southern strategy took precedence over Martin’s northern office.
    Any problems with that, take it up with SF.

  • John Ó Néill

    Just so we are crystal clear, here: you are saying that people will not lose money in changes to Incapacity benefits; Tax Credits; Disability Living Allowance; Child Benefit; Housing Benefit: LHA; Benefit cap and Non-dependant reductions?

    Only the ‘bedroom tax’?

  • Reader

    ‘Motability Maskey’ is not an ‘unverifiable anecdotal myth’. (I don’t know whether all the redundancy in your error makes it more, or less, wrong. But still wrong.)

  • Morpheus

    Never heard of ‘Motabiity Maskey’ so I Googled it and found a story from 14 years ago so I still don’t understand what your point is.

    Also, you last 2 sentences are just waffle, call a spade a spade man…say what you want to say. I shouldn’t have to pull your point out of you.

  • Newton Emerson

    The SF-DUP deal also reportedly dealt with the benefit cap and aspects of disability benefit. There are no changes planned to child benefit under welfare reform and disability benefits are not included in Universal Credit. Housing benefit is “the bedroom tax”, while the effect of welfare reform on tax credits is meant to be neutral – but is going to be a complete IT cock-up here if SF keeps blocking its own deal.

    Or to be crystal clear – there was little for anyone to worry about, individual claimants included, before El Beardo decided his southern electoral project trumped all.

  • John Ó Néill

    Since you are studiously avoiding specifically saying that people won’t lose money as part of these ‘reforms’, I assume that’s as close as we’re going to get to a ‘yes’ to that question.

    On a point of order (and since you do have an economics degree), a freeze on payment levels, like Child Benefit, is equivalent to an annual cut equivalent to the rate of inflation since the real value of the payment decreases year on year. Since freezes began in 2010, and despite the small rise since, the value of current CB rates are now about 10% below where they would be if they had been raised in line with inflation since April 2010 (and historically, since 2004, about 5% below). So ‘no change’ is certainly not the same as ‘no impact’.

    And I am guessing you are excluding individual claimants on DLA or Incapacity Benefits from your last comment (no-one in Britain is under any illusion that these changes will not adversely impact on claimants)? If you think these changes are necessary or desirable, that’s your prerogative. But, if that is the case, then why not defend that point of view (and open out what is probably a much needed debate on the high levels of DLA/IB claimants etc in the north) rather than say those claimants have nothing to worry about when clearly they do.

  • Morpheus

    Is this over? It was really interesting