The Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Catriona Ruane, has warned MLAs of being “ostriches with their heads in the sand” in pressing for the introduction of expensive measures without taking into account the existing budgetary pressures on individual Ministers.
“I would welcome additional resources to support many priorities within the education service. However like all ministers, and we play as a team, I have a budget within which I must operate and difficult decisions to make on spending priorities.”
If that sounds familiar, it should. In an Assembly debate on 29th May we had this contribution
“Naturally, that will be decided by the Executive, and I am aware that the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety will push for additional funds, which I hope will be forthcoming. However, we have a finite budget, and we have to live within its means. It is very dangerous to raise the hopes of the public when it may not be possible to fulfil them.”
.. from the DUP’s Iris Robinson.. shortly before the Assembly voted in favour of an Alliance party amendment to introduce the expensive measure of free personal care for the elderly in 2008/9.. when those voting in favour of that amendment included the Education Minister Catriona Ruane.Just one more point to note. And it’s SF’s John O’Dowd’s response to the DUP’s Peter Robinson criticism of those Ministers in May
“The Executive has an enormous challenge ahead. Of course there are going to be difficult decisions because of the limited budget and the reality that the British government has created a huge under-investment in our public services and infrastructure.
“There is a collective responsibility on the Executive to go back to the British Chancellor and ensure that we get the resources we need to redress this under investment and neglect,” he said.
“If the Executive is unable to secure additional funding then it needed to make it clear that the British government has failed and this would support the demand for fiscal autonomy,” he added.
Still, it’s good to see that the message from the Finance Minister, Peter Robinson, on the collective responsibility of the Executive is getting through. Of course, that only applies to those members actually in the Executive.. not other MLAs.