The first of the major parties out of the traps with their manifesto was the DUP this morning, who on the
Shankill Road in West Belfast (a key DUP target seat) set out their policies for the next five years and focused heavily on their party leader, Arlene Foster.
I thought I would go through the 31 page document and highlight some of the key bits.
The first thing that catches your eye is that it really is the triple A factor-All About Arlene. This is clearly Arlene’s plan and vision and the party must be hearing on the doors that she is a key electoral asset for them.
The document goes through the DUP’s achievements in government in areas like Health, Investment, Skills and reform of Stormont, whilst also listing some key priorities for the DUP in the next mandate.
The party pledges 50,000 more jobs and would be opening to consider lowering Corporation Tax down to
10%. They also have an interesting idea to devolved powers to local councils to allow them to vary business rates by up to 3%, although it doesn’t mention if they can raise them by 3%.
The party argues that these plans are built up their record to date as they say that in the last mandate the Executive helped create 40,000 new jobs and £2.9 billion of investment.
The fact that they exceeded most of their investment and job targets had led to these fairly optimistic plans for the next mandate.
The party are also making some expensive commitments on Health pledging AT LEAST £1 Billion within the next five years to the department. They pledge to use this money to tackle waiting lists and also employ 1,500 more Nurses and 200 more consultants over the next five years.
The DUP don’t put a price tag on their education promises. Instead they have opted for greater powers for Principals and Board of Governors to manage their budgets.
In point 5, the party pledges to tackle educational underachievement and pledges to place an emphasis on the Numeracy & Literacy Signature Project.
The party will continue to support Shared Education and plan to fully implement the proposals in the Fresh Start Agreement.
They also want to tackle what they perceive to be preferential treatment for Irish Medium school building and the abolition of the Catholic Teacher Training Certificate.
The DUP believes that the time is right to reform the system of donations and implement the same regime as exists across the UK. They specifically highlight barring political parties from accepting donations outside of the UK and publishing of donations.
Next up they argue the case for reforming how Assembly expenses are administered. The DUP believe that a similar body to ISPA which operates at Westminster is the best module to go for in terms of deciding expenses and regulating business costs.
They also make the pitch for a voluntary coalition at Stormont arguing for a weighted majority voting system of 65% with the objective of ending community designation in the Assembly chamber.
The centenary of Northern Ireland
Key points here are the public holiday on 5th May 2021 (although it’s a Wednesday) for the founding of Northern Ireland and the gift of a baby box to every child born in 2021 based on the Finnish model (It’s not as daft as it sounds).
They also propose a partition payment of sorts by giving each person who as lived throughout Northern Ireland’s first century £1,000.
On justice issues the party propose dealing with the victims issues is that a draft bill should be published and that victims of the Troubles should be allowed to provide feedback on the measures contained within the bill.
On reforming the courts, the party aims to establish what they call “problem solving courts” with a focus on domestic violence and drugs courts. The aim is to reduce costs and reoffending.
They also propose the introduction of body cameras for PSNI officers which they claim can help drive up standards, deal with complaints and assist in evidence gathering. However, an interesting reform would be the introduction of cameras into some court rooms.