Private commissioners, public funds…

While I abhor the idea of an unelected quango of commissioners, appointed by an NIO minister, sitting in private session on any issue, never mind education services, the stalling tactics by the elected representatives on the Southern South Eastern Education and Library Board before the appointment of the replacement Board, and their subsequent complaints after the fact, doesn’t generate much sympathy from me either.. The fact that neither side appears to be able to state clearly what the actual position is, in relation to their budget, doesn’t exactly help matters.

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  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pete, I agree. It’s a damn disgrace if educational services are being cut and the public isn’t even told about it.

    Which doesn’t excuse any previous mismanagement, but at least we knew what was happening.

    Utterly undemocratic.

  • Garibaldy

    I look forward to watching our local politicians squirming and trying to blame the Brits when our assembly finally gets up and running as it inevitably will

  • tiny

    I am the father of a ‘special needs’ child and I agree with the comments about the stalling tactics of certain people especially Mr Spratt, did his actions make things better for my son, no, did it make things better for him, yes,

  • Cynic

    Dont blame the Board too much.

    The fundamental problem is that many of the Boards overspent and overspent, year after year, assuming that the Department would always bail them out. Why take a difficult decision when someone else will take it for you or wash it away with extra cash? The NIO conditioned them to this for years but the problem is that the game has now changed.

    As for the Commissioners meeting in secret, I dont blame them at this stage. I assume that they will have to receive a number of reports on what state the Board is in and how it got that bad. Every special interest group will then be beating a path to their door.

    Democracy only works if you have democrats prepared to take the real decisions. They arent and arent. Hence things like this. Sad to say but perhaps the best we can do at the moment.

  • Nevin

    [i]BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent Maggie Taggart said: “The Department of Education has told schools they must neither under nor overspend, yet it has under-spent its budget by £69m.”[/i]

    Perhaps they should have replaced the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education by a commissioner earlier?

  • idunnomeself


    If DE has underspent its budget that means the Boards (who spend most of the Department’s money on their behalf) have underspent.

    In fact it’s mainly ‘capital’ money- for buildings etc, not for running costs and is linked to delays in schools, which are largely the fault of the Boards.

    So that figure is actually just more evidence of the failure of the Boards.

    And it couldn’t be used to reduce the extent of any cuts.

    This had to be done, other Boards had been responsible and had made the tough decisions earlier, and they couldn’t be punished for a crowd of Spratts who would rather showboat than make a decision.

    it is particularly galling for Jimmy Spratt to complain about the state of the buildings when his Board has been failing to provide new schools in Bangor and Comber (that I know of at least) that are now years overdue.

    the key phrase is ‘shortfall’ of funding- IE it isn’t necessarily a ‘cut’. So a Board asks for a 5% increase, gets 3% and talks about a ‘shortfall’ while the Department boasts that it has provided an above inflation increase. Boards have never tried to do more with the money they get, and have given out significant payrises to their staff- so the same service costs more to provide.

    I think the Telegraph is confusing this by throwing around words like ‘cut’ when the Boards are actually getting more money!

  • overhere

    If those now shouting about not being told about the meeting had got off their f*t butts then they could be doing this themselves. So they have no one to blame but themselves yet here they re crying like spoilt brats. Something like a child who has a toy and not playing with it but as soon as another child uses it has a tantrum saying it is his.

  • B e m u s ed

    Cavemen like Finlay Prat have only themselves to blame for this debacle. The antics of these gobshites in the run-up to their suspension was sickening in the extreme. They were there to do a job, not to grandstand for their own petty political purposes. Seeing that red-faced, obese oaf spluttering-on about how HE wasn’t going to make any cuts and HE wasn’t going to take away meals from disabled kids etc. etc. nearly made me barf. Welcome to the real world Prat – the Brits aren’t going to continue to hand you and your incompetent colleagues blank cheques any more and they certainly aren’t going to stand around and watch you act the bollocks with impunity. Good riddance.

  • cladycowboy


    ‘While I abhor the idea of an unelected quango of commissioners’

    Whilst i just abhor any quango of commissioners unless they are paying the public handsomely for the privelege

  • willis

    3 Questions about SEELB

    Their old HQ in Windsor Ave seems empty. Was it ever sold?

    Their current HQ in Dundonald seems vast. Have they thought of selling it?

    Do Castlereagh Council still owe them money over the Cregagh Resource centre?

  • rapunsel

    Most of the above posts express my sentiments exactly. I heard an idiot called Jonathan Bell on this morning again trying to deflect attention on to the work of the commissioners rather than examining his own record in respect of the Board. His justification was along the lines ” I’m elected therefore it is ok for me to be incompetent” .

    Clearly most of these on the old board are not fit to run a sweet shop , cuts or not. I’d have more faith in the commissioners but would still be concerned about cutbacks

  • Pete, it’s the South Eastern Education and Library Board.

  • Baldrick45

    Not sure which EB it originated from (Belfast I think) but I remember a spokesperson saying that they knew they needed to close a group of schools because of falling rolls but that they wouldn’t force the issue since the school heads and school boards would recognise the facts for themselves and decide among themselves which ones should close. As perfect an abdication of all management responsibility as I have ever heard!

    I think the EB’s, faced with the unanswerable evidence of over a decade of falling school roll’s, have completely and absolutely failed to discharge their function. Just what strategic vision and leadership can they point to over that period? Or is that not the function of a Board anymore?

    I agree it is unfair that these things are now decided at secret meetings but if these commissioners are willling to take the unpleasant, but essential decisions which are needed to secure properly structured and funded schools then they will at least be doing a damn sight more for the education of our kids than the Spratts of NI have ever done.

    Last thought – Is this a microcosm of the wider political situation in NI – Small people with bloated ego’s and over developed senses of self importance refusing to take the hard decisions we need for the overall good of NI and then expecting our applause for just saying “No”.


  • Pete Baker


    Cheers Hugh.

  • Here’s an idea why don’t they keep the politicians the feck away from public bodies such as elbs.

    what will happen with the new education authority when it comes into operation who will be appointed to the board

    I’ve noticed alot of coverage about teachers on the news in last few days – bunch of whinging bastards

    9-3pm isn’t a full working day and 8 weeks off per year oh I’m sure that kills them to when wee sammy gives off in classroom.

    Make the fecks reapply for all their jobs and fire the ones who whinge

    if i hear one more mention of intergrated education im going to barf –

  • DUP grandstanding hmmmmm not them surely.

    The party which brought us whistle sounding politicians

    The party who are incapable of seeing the big picture

    for them to whinge about education cuts is sicking

    you mutha fuppers are holding the assemblys return up

    lets not forget that

    on seperate note if cuts are needed then whinge to your mp or mla. Ask why there are cuts?

  • willis

    One other unfortunate aspect is the misinformation coming out of the Belfast Telegraph.

    They twist the headline to suggest these cuts are to come when most have already happened.

    Things are serious enough to merit proper journalism not spin.

  • Nevin

    Idunnomeself, surely it isn’t beyond the wit of a Minister or a Permanent Secretary to adjust funds between accounts on the basis of need? Such a relatively minor adjustment would have quietly resolved the problem IMO. Just imagine the amount of money that will end up in the pockets of the commissioners due to a lack of common sense.

  • idunnomeself


    If you are asking about money that was to be used on a capital scheme (that is running late) being used to bail out an overspending recurrent budget it would be a stupid thing to do it (which is why treasury rules don’t allow it), and so yes, it is beyond the perm sec or Minister or anyone else within NI to do that:

    1) The money is needed to finish the building work etc which has already started
    2) In the longer term there would be a chronic lack of investement in infrastructure, as capital budgets would be raided again and again to cover other expenses
    3) If there are 5 Boards and one overspends, and the others keep within their budget and you bail out the overspending Board, within a few years they’ll all be spending like they’ve won the lottery, and why not, if they can get away with it, they’ll spend as much money on schools as they can.

    I wonder if the payment the Comissioners receive will make a dent in the expenses the Board received.. not to even start on MLA’s either..

    I agree that the Telegraphs reporting is downright misleading onthis subject

  • Cynic

    BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent Maggie Taggart said: “The Department of Education has told schools they must neither under nor overspend, yet it has under-spent its budget by £69m”

    In the old days Departments ran yearly budgets with a ‘spend it or lose it rule’. This led to the end of year splurge to ‘get rid’ of money before the Dept of Finance clawed it back.

    Now the system is that monies can be rolled over from year to year. It would be great to see how much of this money is (often sensibly) already earmarked to pay for expenditure that bridges the end of finanical year or projects like new school builds that are spread over several years and where the project may have slipped slightly or the bills may be late coming in.

    Of course, this can make great headlines and, to be fair, a few of our elected board members will have difficulty with the concept as

    1 you have to be able to add and subtract to understand how it works

    2 spending money sensibly will be a novel concept for them

  • Theydon’t want devolution

    on this there was a letter in the Newsletter yesterday where an Alliance councillor criticised a Minister for ‘passing the buck’ of responsibility for libraries to Education and Library Boards.

    One of the few areas where local politicians have any power and she’s claiming they shouldn’t??