The public sector

Buried among the latest Assembly questions the scale of the public sector and its distribution is highlighted. The latest figures available show 219,403 people employed in the public sector. Details below the fold.Listed by ranking (by number of employees), name, number of public sector employees (as defined by Census of Employment DETI, September 2005), the number of full-time equivalent public sector jobs per 100 economically active people.

1. South Belfast 32,183 (62.3)
2. West Belfast 16,629 (45.6)
3. North Belfast 15,609 (42.6)
4. Foyle 14,721 (29.9)
5. Newry & Armagh 14,431 (27.0)
6. East Belfast 13,386 (33.8)
7. South Antrim 12,972 (20.4)
8. Upper Bann 12,649 (22.0)
9. North Antrim 10,814 (18.4)
10. Strangford 10,715 (18.3)
11. Lagan Valley 10,707 (17.4)
12. West Tyrone 9,761 (22.9)
13. Ferm & S Tyrone 9,647 (19.6)
14. East L’Derry 9,488 (19.8)
15. South Down 7,856 (13.7)
16. North Down 6,490 (12.9)
17. Mid-Ulster 6,174 (12.8)
18. East Antrim 5,171 (10.1)

  • Just goes to show the scale of Public Sector employment here. It really is huge. Also it’s interesting how many jobs are still situated in Greater Belfast.

    I recall great fanfares years ago about plans to de-centralize large numbers of public sector jobs away from Belfast, but these figures would perhaps indicate, that the policy has had only limited success.

  • George

    To put the figures in perspective, that makes a percentage of 31.5% in the public sector as per the total workforce at that time.

    The 2005 Report:

    http://www.detini.gov.uk/cgi-bin/downdoc?id=2661

    This compares with 20.4% for the UK as a whole in 2005.

    In other words, there needs to be 77,539 fewer public sector jobs in order for Northern Ireland to reach the same level of public sector employment as the UK average.

  • Is it the case that we need more public sector jobs here, for whatever reasons?

    I note that Margaret Ritchie has been told to cut over 1000 jobs in DSD, most of them within the Social Security Agency. She is apparently fighting the good fight against the proposed cuts , but whether she will have any success is another matter altogether. Maybe natural wastage will reduce the numbers, but only slightly perhaps.

    Maybe it’s just the start of many more proposed job cuts within the overall Public Sector here.

  • Nevin

    FD, as an aside, perhaps you might like to post the figures on school suspensions by district council area in a separate thread. They’re on the same web page as the civil service statistics. I’m a little bit surprised that Moyle has come top of the heap or should that be bottom of the pit!!

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    “In other words, there needs to be 77,539 fewer public sector jobs in order for Northern Ireland to reach the same level of public sector employment as the UK average.”

    As it’s cheaper for the government to have civil service functions carried out here rather than say London, why not? Why pay London weighting? It makes sense for more of these jobs to come here. Much the way the Republic has tried to relocate civil service jobs to the regions.

  • Pounder

    Do these figures include temporary workers? At the moment the DFP office i work in is nearly totally reliant on 51 week temps and temps from employment agencies.

  • Thats True Congal Claen. Belfast Benefit Delivery Centre has 600 jobs relocated from London and the CSA in Great Northern Tower has even larger numbers doing work which has been relocated from across the water.

  • Dewi

    Belfast South so large because of University I presume.

  • While it’s certainly a huge number, there might need to be a bit of caution about what precisely one means when using the term ‘public sector’. I don’t know what the situation is in the North, so just to use down here as an example.

    According to the most recent study by the CSO we have 356,100 public sector workers. This breaks down as:

    38,400 in the Civil Service (Including Prison Officers)
    11,300 in the Defence Forces
    12,900 in the Gardaí
    96,900 in Education (Primary, Secondary, Third Level, Vocational etc.)
    38,000 in Local authorities and regional bodies
    52,400 in Semi-States (41,900 of which are in Commercial ones and this figure excludes their subsidary companies)
    106,300 in Health

    I’d be very curious to see how the figures in the North break down. Are there proprtionately more in Defence and Police for example? Is there a Northern ‘semi-state sector’?

    Finally, I’d caution against the distaste people seem to have for public sector jobs. Anything the private sector accomplishes is built on the back of the public sector. There is certainly a need to expand the private sector in the North, but does this necessarily mean there is a corresponding need to gut the public sector?

    Speaking from our experience, and I’ve worked in public, private and ngo sectors, we could do with more public sector workers in the form of teachers, special needs assistants, nurses and nursing support staff, and so on.

  • George

    Congal,
    if you buckos can convince the Great British establishment to make Northern Ireland the administrative capital of the UK, fair dues.

    Britain’s Brazilia? Personally, I don’t see it happening.

    What I do see happening is Britain making the good people of Northern Ireland even more dependent on the exchequer purse.

    The UK was Europe’s top location for Foreign Direct Investment in 2006 but Northern Ireland won’t see any of it. Instead Britain will continue shifting low paying, local service delivery jobs as the people who currently do them are the ones least able to fight against a move.

    Also, the service they are offering are for those on the bottom of the social ladder, those least able to complain.

    Any decent English public service job will go to an English region.

    So congratulations to NI more securing some crap jobs that will further stifle the private sector and maintain the wealth gap to the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

    The difference with the Repubic’s decentralisation was that this was meant to move quality, well-paid public jobs to the regions.

    But as you say yourself, the Republic “tried” to relocate departments out of Dublin with very limited success. Many say this duck is already dead in the water.

    If it’s that hard to get someone from Dublin to even consider moving to Kilkenny, what do you think someone from Kent would think of a stint in Strabane?

  • George

    Frank,
    with over two million now at work south of the border, your figures mean that 17.6% of the Republic’s workforce are in the public sector.

    The big issue here is the overall size of the public sector, followed by the breakdown.

  • “If it’s that hard to get someone from Dublin to even consider moving to Kilkenny, what do you think someone from Kent would think of a stint in Strabane?”

    Geoge it is the work that is moving in these instances, not the personnel…!

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    Perhaps it’s just a useful stop gap as we build up a decent number of private company jobs. I believe NI had fairly good private sector job creation last month see here

  • Congal Claen

    Fek, that anchor thing is annoying as fek…

    Hi George,

    Perhaps it’s just a useful stop gap as we build up a decent number of private company jobs. I believe NI had fairly good private sector job creation last month see here

  • With respect George, I’m not sure you’re getting my point.

    Absolutely, as a proportion of the workforce the public sector in the North is massive. Absolutely huge. But what does the phrase ‘public sector’ mean? For example, could massive reductions in the public sector be accomplished as part of the security normalisation process? Are the people in what I am led to believe are a seemingly neverending series of QUANGOs classed as public sector?

    Let me finish by pointing to another example down here. Sometimes, for reasons I have never understood, the public sector employment figure down here is given WITHOUT the health stats. If you look at the CSO report I mentioned (Link at bottom) you will see the figure is given twice, once with Health included, once without.

    What I’m trying to get at is that saying X amount of workers is in the public sector is interesting. It suggests a number of things. But without knowing how the public sector is defined, it means less than it would if we knew that.

    http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/earnings/current/psempearn.pdf

  • George

    macswiney,
    when you relocate departments, you generally have to relocate the people in those departments or move them to some other department in their area. Big logistics problem.

    You also have to have the government wishing that top civil servants move away from London, have the support of the relevant department and the workforce as no department is going to support having a totally new workforce.

    And don’t forget this is the public sector we are talking about here. The only jobs that departments will happily relocate are those low-paid ones for call centres, business support and the like.

    The people in the good jobs want to continue sipping lattes in Whitehall rather than strong tea in Strabane or wherever and who can blame them?

    Congal,
    things are better for the NI private sector, no doubt about it but my fear is that it is built on the same shaky foundation as many of the current jobs south of the border, construction and consumer debt.

    But I’m a fan of the idea that in most instances robust jobs growth is better than none so would be optimistic even if a shakeout over the next 2 years looks inevitable We will see how things pan out.

    Frank,
    The DETNI doesn’t define what Public Sector is in the 2005 Census but has the following breakdown, which doesn’t add up to the figure given to the Assembly, which is 24,000 less:

    Public Administration and defence (excluding NIHE): 59,944
    Education: 72,598
    Health and social work: 110,780

    Compared with the Irish Republic figures you give, it looks like the big cuts have to come in health.

  • Is it the case that we need more public sector jobs here, for whatever reasons?

    I doubt it; the transferred GB functions being done here are a tiny proportion of that 219k. The reason why we have such a big public sector is because Thatcher reluctantly accepted Keynsianism was an acceptable price for keeping a lid on the troubles. And a series of wet Tory SoSs in the ’80s and early ’90s thought Keynsianism was great anyway.

    (Also directed at Congal.)

    Belfast South so large because of University I presume.

    Nope, because it takes in Belfast City Centre; I’m not sure that University staff count as public sector workers in the UK, as they’re only indirectly employed by the state, and some not even that. Which makes Frank Little’s point all the more pertinent, but I challenge somebody to disagree with the broad thrust of these figures: our public sector is feckin massive.

  • Thanks for the figures George.

    One final point though before I wander back to my side of the border!

    The goal of public service reform in the North should not be to emulate the situation down here. The public sector needs to be big enough to do what it is supposed to do, or is likely to be called on to do. As definitions go, it lacks something but I hope I get my point across.
    Comparisons with other states are useful, but should not be the be all and end all.

    If we accept that as a loose definition, figures for public sector employment in health and education are, from an Irish perspective, too low. We have massive class sizes, a desperate need for more frontline nurses, a desperate need for administrative support staff for principals in schools and so on. We need to be increasing those numbers, not reducing them.

    Similarly, is your public sector bloated, or are the people working in it needed to deliver the services people require? I’m sure the answer varies depending on the category of worker you’re talking about and the section of the public sector.

    Finally, I realise it’s the fashion these days to characterise public sector workers as overpaid, lazy and inefficient compared to the dynamic go-getters and entrepreneurs in the private sector. My experience of outsourced public services down here has universally been that it was better public.

    Just because it’s public sector, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  • slug

    Some (bot not remotely all) of the difference is down to ownership patterns. Privatise NIWater and Translink – as has been done in England – and you would relabel x0000’s of the jobs from public to private in one go without any real change in what the people do.

  • could massive reductions in the public sector be accomplished as part of the security normalisation process?

    Nearly all of those have already happened.

    Are the people in what I am led to believe are a seemingly neverending series of QUANGOs classed as public sector?

    They certainly should be.

  • George

    Frank,
    your public sector is my public sector. If I was any further south I’d be in France.

    One thing I do know is that large public sector numbers doesn’t mean better service.

    Northern Ireland has much longer waiting lists than the Irish Republic for surgical procedures for example, but, at the moment despite the huge investment, I’d take my chances in a Belfast A&E over a southern one any day of the week.

    But it’s basic economics that if you have nearly a third of your workers not generating wealth and paid out of the public purse you won’t be in a position to finance the type of public services people want.

    The ratio in Northern Ireland is skewed and there is no way of getting around that.

    The Republic, on the other hand, is (at the moment at any rate) in a better position to tackle issues such as the A&E crisis.

    Northern Ireland has to get to a stage where it has a public sector that it can actually fund.

  • slug

    “Northern Ireland has to get to a stage where it has a public sector that it can actually fund. ”

    Why? It’s not an independent country, is it?

    I think the important argument for an expanded provate sector productivity is that we want maximally high-quality jobs for people.

    One of the key problems in expanding our private sector – a problem which results in low productivity per-person – is lack of skills in the workforce. So further growth really is down to better primary education and training outcomes. Too many people still leave without qualifications.

  • willowfield

    The only way NI will achieve parity with the rest of the UK in terms of public sector employment is if the following happen:

    1. The NI Assembly is abolished, along with the NI departments and the NI Civil Service, thus removing all jobs associated with our separate Government administration.

    2. All social, economic and health inequalities are solved, thereby removing the need for greater relative provision of health, social services and social security services.

    3. Peace and political stability continue to the point that we no longer need relatively more police and security personnel.

    4. Our birth rate declines to the UK average, thereby reducing the need for teachers and other educational staff.

  • ciaran

    Your not looking much there willow.
    On point
    1 why is our assembly more costly than say wales or scotland( or is that the case)
    2. You’ll be lucky, I don’t envy the task off the health minister
    3. It is nearly there I would say and with the perceived increased threats in the uk maybe more are required.
    4.double edged sword there, needing fewer teachers means more teachers out of work.

  • slug

    Willowfield, an old population requires more healthcare than a young population. GB has more pensioners per capita than we do.

  • So further growth really is down to better primary education and training outcomes. Too many people still leave without qualifications.

    I’m not disagreeing with the desirability of improving education and training outcomes, but you’re ignoring the role that the public sector might play in crowding out private sector job creation. If private sector employers can’t compete with public sector wages (which is always a risk if the money is coming from somewhere else), then people who might go and do something in the private sector that creates jobs and is in the interests of the economy, go into the public sector because it satisfies their short-term interests better.

  • George

    Slug,

    “Why? It’s not an independent country, is it?”

    That’s a very dependency outlook you are displaying there. If you are not in control of your finances, you are not in control.

    The people of Northern Ireland should be looking not only to be in a position where they have some say in how their services are funded but also be in a position to fund them.

    Instead many seem happy to live the dream that the golden Westminster goose will continuing laying for them instead of the many deprived areas in England and elsewhere in the UK.

    But even now this goose is losing some of its sheen. The health budget for Northern Ireland to March 2007 was 3.3 billion sterling (4.8 billion euros).

    In contrast, 14 billion will be spent on the Republic’s health service in 2007.

    The total budget for running Northern Ireland in the year up to March 2007 was 16 billion (23.6 billion euro).

    The total 2007 budget for the Republic is 54 billion.

    So 30 billion extra of public money will be invested in the Republic this year than in Northern Ireland.

    In 2008, it will most likely to be 35 billion.

    This huge investment discrepancy is going to grow year on year unless Northern Ireland gets a control on its finances and starts generating some wealth of its own.

    Just because Northern Ireland isn’t an independent country doesn’t mean it can ignore reality.

  • idunnomeself

    George am i missing something?

    what are the per head of population figures? I mean the ROI population is 4 million, NI is 1.7 Million, so by your figures speanding per head is higher in NI than in the ROI. I’ve been in an Irish hospital, so I can well believe this!

    But I admire your generosity, after years of the people in the ROI struggling by with worse schools, hospitals and roads than the north, now that you’ve got a wee bit of cash you want to come up and spend it on us? thanks!

    By the way I imagine one of the reasons that South Belfast is so high is because of the City hospital, the BBC, the university and all the civil service departments in Linenhall street and Adelaide Street. If you want to cut the proportion of public sector workers you’re talking closing schools and hospitals, but obviously the real issue is in getting the number of workers up, its the economically inactive proportion of the workforce that skew the comparision as much as anything.

    (oh and does anyone have the % of public sector workers in an area of the UK like Newcastle or Sunderland?)

  • George

    idunnomyself,

    On those figures, per capita the Republic will spend 15% more per capita on health in 2007.

    I am well aware that there is a catch-up element after the years of lack of investment in the Republic (I mentioned my preference for a northern A&E earlier in this thread) but the problem for NI is that the level of funding in areas like health is already starting to seriously lag that in the Republic and I don’t see any way for this to be corrected unless NI starts generating some serious finances of its own.

    There is also the added problem that the public expenditure per head of population in NI is the highest for any region of the UK and is 29% higher than the overall average.

    The British government has already stated that a greater contribution will have to be made by the NI taxpayer.

    This is as good as it gets for Northern Ireland.

  • slug

    George

    Its only dependency thinking its big country thinking. No small unit of a big country like the UK has to break even. NI is only 3% of the UK and we don’t expect each 3% block of a country to be self sufficient.

    It is nonetheless highly desirable that NI’s private sector continues to grow rapidly to buid up an exciting place to live and work with high living standards and high levels of lifestyle.

    Sammy

    I agree that there is crowding out as public sector jobs can cream off the best from other work. However (if the research that DETINI publish is correct) the main reason that our output per head falls behind is the much higher proportion of people who have no skills and therefore earn low pay. If we shift a lot of people over from low to high skills that amounts to an outward shift in NI’s “production possibility” – pushing up incomes and employment. To me this probably is the big challenge for the executive. I am not sure whether the problem is at primary level or secondary level but there is a real problem of far lower educational attainment (outside the grammar school elite) than in GB.

  • George

    slug,
    Being happy to remain as a backwater of a big country as long as the bills are paid is not big country thinking, this is dependency.

    Northern Ireland’s brightest will continue to leave because they are dependent on the big country giving them a job where the big country needs them and it doesn’t need bright people in NI.

    Northern Ireland will continue to lose out on investment because the big country has better regions to invest in.

    Northern Ireland will be unable to close the gap to these regions because the big country has stifled growth due to fact all its policies are geared toward the wealth generating areas.

    The big country won’t help Northern Ireland out of this dependency mess, Northern Ireland will have to do it for itself.

    The same can be said for Scotland which is at least waking up to the task it faces if it wants to give its population a future in Scotland.

    Decades of underachievement as a region have led not surprisingly to the people of these regions to underachieve.

    Northern Ireland should be looking to be a net contributor to the British exchequer. That should be the target.

  • It’s deja-vu, all over again!

    Here’s The Economist, back in March:

    Over the 40 years of the troubles, the place [NI] has become a subsidy junkie that receives from Westminster £5 billion ($10 billion) more than is raised locally by taxation. More than a third of the 770,000 people in jobs are directly employed by the public sector (which accounts for nearly two-thirds of economic output), while half a million are officially classed as inactive. Part of the problem is the scarcity of private-sector investment, which is crowded out both by the omnipresent state and the large black economy that “peaceful’ paramilitaries on both sides of the religious divide hold sway over.

    Once upon a time, Harold Wilson voiced a complaint similar to that of The Economist. There’s a nicely-done bit by Eoghan Mac Cormaic in An Phoblacht some time back, rootling in his treasure-chest of political souvenirs:

    The first spontaneous symbol in my box was invented by Ian Paisley. Back in 1974, at the time of the UWC strike, Harold Wilson had gone on TV to accuse Unionists and Loyalists of being spongers on the British Taxpayer. The Supreme Sponge was, naturally enough, irate and duly appeared on TV the next day with a piece of sponge in his buttonhole. Many unionists followed his example and for weeks we had the unsightly spectacle of unionism parading about with its brains pinned to the lapels of its coat. It wasn’t a great campaign: the design features didn’t lend themselves well to the grey skies of the Six Counties. One good shower and the sponge-soaked lapel of Unionism was sagging to its waist. Another heroic failure in the badge department, and another addition to my biscuit tin.

    All good discussions, and I’ve done this one twice already, seem to recur.

    The remedies are:
    [1] To grow the private sector. That does not entirely mean shrinking the public sector. We want employment growth, not just privatisation.
    [2] That, in particular, means the growth of new technologies and high-tech industries.
    [3] Which, in turn, means the closer relationship of the universities and smaller firms. I recall another study which showed that NI industry was marked by two characteristics: a huge proportion of the larger operations controlled from outside NI (making them therefore volnerable to off-shore decision-making), and a disproportionately small proportion of medium sized firms.
    [4] Which, in turn, adds weight to the need to bring the higher-education sector up to par with its mainland equivalent. I know I keep banging on with this one, but it is disgraceful that 30% of NI students who qualify for HE have to leave NI to avail of it, because of the shortage of places in NI.

  • Animus

    For all the grumping about the public sector, it is not recognised statistically that, while there are big numbers, the workload carried out by many public servants is increasingly done by lower graded workers. A whole tranche of middle managers has been wiped out; public sector jobs are no longer the high earners they were in the past either.

    While I think there may be some truth that the public sector is leaden with bureaucracy, the fact that they are accountable to the public makes this necessary. The same is true for the Assembly. Any figure which quotes big numbers may give a skewed picture. For example, if I say I buy a £2 coffee every work day, that sounds reasonable, but if I say my coffee expenditure over a year is over £600 that may sound extravagant. Often headlines preach the yearly spend on various things (hospitality in the NIO, for example) to make a point, rather than to gain an understanding.

  • willowfield

    CIARAN

    Your not looking much there willow.

    It’s not me, it’s George who’s looking.

    1 why is our assembly more costly than say wales or scotland( or is that the case)

    It serves a smaller population than either so obviously it costs proportionately more. But regardless, George wants us to have he same rate of public employment as the UK average – not the same as either Wales or Scotland – and England is by far the largest part of the UK and does not have an assembly or parliament.

    SLUG

    Willowfield, an old population requires more healthcare than a young population. GB has more pensioners per capita than we do.

    Good point.

  • willowfield

    GEORGE

    The people of Northern Ireland should be looking not only to be in a position where they have some say in how their services are funded but also be in a position to fund them.

    Does that also apply to the people of Connacht? The people of Kerry?

    Being happy to remain as a backwater of a big country as long as the bills are paid is not big country thinking, this is dependency.

    Do you attribute the same thinking to Connacht and Kerry?

    PS. I note you ignored my earlier post which spelled out the realities of how NI can achieve the same rate of public employment as the UK average. Why was that? Do you think it is achieveable?

  • Animus

    Willowfield and Slug
    We may have fewer older people, but we have a significantly higher percentage of the population with disabilities as well, compared to other parts of the UK.

    Also the fact that we have more younger people (not of working age) means that while school rolls are falling, we still have a huge number of younger people who need access to schools, education and training before they can join the labour market.

  • kensei

    “Does that also apply to the people of Connacht? The people of Kerry?”

    First up, this is a spurious comparison as you are relegating a supposedly important and equal partner of the Union to the status of a county. Seriously, where’s your self respect, or are going to get the sponge for your lapel back out?

    That said, there is absolutely no reason that Connacht should not be largely paying it’s way. Individual counties are a little trickier and probably an unrealistic goal, but they should be having that target too. Large imbalances are not particularly good for the economy or social cohesion, or say, the goal of getting affordable housing.

    The point is this, and only an idiot would deny it: the rewards for successfully making it by yourself are much, much greater than sponging off elsewhere.

  • willowfield

    ANIMUS

    We may have fewer older people, but we have a significantly higher percentage of the population with disabilities as well, compared to other parts of the UK.

    Good point. George will have to find a way to reduce the level of disabilities, too.

    KENSEI

    First up, this is a spurious comparison as you are relegating a supposedly important and equal partner of the Union to the status of a county.

    I didn’t realise Connacht was a county.

    But it’s not a spurious comparison: your dismissal of it is spurious. George is claiming that every region of a country must pay its own way and not receive any central subsidy – therefore I am asking whether he thinks subsidies to the regions of Southern Ireland should be removed and that all the wealth generated in Greater Dublin should stay there.

    The point is this, and only an idiot would deny it: the rewards for successfully making it by yourself are much, much greater than sponging [sic] off elsewhere.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that NI’s economy should not improve and become less dependent on the public sector. But equally, greater social need and local administration mean that NI cannot reduce its public sector to the size of the UK average.

  • Very interesting and for someone like me with little knowledge of Northern economics educational discussion.

    One point I would disagree with is the continued suggestion that the public sector cannot generate wealth or contribute to economic growth. The ESB and Bórd Gáis for example pay a dividend to the exchequer every year. Before the lunatic decision to sell it off was made Aer Lingus also contributed to the public coffers every year.

    The role of some of these companies should not always be to maximise profits. Companies like CIE and An Post for example have public service remits that because they are not properly subsidised by the State mean they make a loss. But publically owned companies can be profitable generators of economic growth.

  • kensei

    “I didn’t realise Connacht was a county.”

    I didn’t realise Kerry wasn’t.

    “But it’s not a spurious comparison: your dismissal of it is spurious. George is claiming that every region of a country must pay its own way and not receive any central subsidy – therefore I am asking whether he thinks subsidies to the regions of Southern Ireland should be removed and that all the wealth generated in Greater Dublin should stay there.”

    No, it is a spurious comparison. There is a qualitative difference between Connacht, which has no administrative function, and Northern Ireland, supposedly a country in its own right.

    I have already addressed the argument – generating your own wealth is a vastly superior option to taking it form elsewhere, whatever your size, and that should be the option to pursue. One of the functions of central government is to distribute money about, but local politicians aims should into be more sponging.

    “I don’t think anyone is arguing that NI’s economy should not improve and become less dependent on the public sector. But equally, greater social need and local administration mean that NI cannot reduce its public sector to the size of the UK average.”

    Of course it can. That is just wrong. It can’t achieved without pain, and I’m sure George will tell you that the Republic had to take pain to achieve their success. However, if the political will was there, it could be done. And I believe the UK average would still be ahead of the Republic.

  • kensei

    Bah

    “but local politicians aims should into be more sponging.”

    should be

    “But local politicians aims should not be more sponging.”

  • slug

    The discussion should distinguish between government investment and government spending.

    The discussion should also be clear that requiring each 3% section of a large country to break even in budgetary terms is daft in and of itself.

    However the discussion should recognise tackling the problem of low productivity in the UK regions as a serious public policy objective.

    The main cause in NI appears to be low skills.

  • kensei @ 11:14 AM:
    Nice one. I thought that kind of typo only happened to me.

    slug on @ 11:37 AM:
    Absolutely!

    Which raises an interesting thought. Reg Empey’s long-term involvement in trade and industry (as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment) has passed to Nigel Dodds (with Mark Durkan and Paul Maskey heading up the supporting committee), while Empey is now in the parallel role of Minister for Employment and Learning. These should all be heavy-hitters, which implies that the new regime is taking this seriously.

    Let me add one further thought: there is a plethora of small firms across the Six Counties. Many of them are headed by (in many cases simply are) well-qualified bods. The aim should be to grow these into middle-sized enterprises, which is where the support mechanism (consultancies, higher education and finance) is needed.

  • Flys

    idunnomyself,

    “the problem for NI is that the level of funding in areas like health is already starting to seriously lag that in the Republic and I don’t see any way for this to be corrected unless NI starts generating some serious finances of its own.”

    Why? A private company that sets up in Belfast pays it’s corporation tax and VAT to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, not Stormont. It’s employees and directors pay income tax to HMRC too, so what are you talking about?

  • Flys

    “Which, in turn, adds weight to the need to bring the higher-education sector up to par with its mainland equivalent. I know I keep banging on with this one, but it is disgraceful that 30% of NI students who qualify for HE have to leave NI to avail of it, because of the shortage of places in NI.”

    A lot of people WANT to study in another part of the UK. No doubt this also happens in other UK regions. You need to factor that into your figure.

  • Flys @ 12:23 PM:

    Yes!

    [1] Surely, too, the basis of funding health either side of the Great Divide is sooo different, it makes comparisons quite odious. For example, as I understand it, only about a third of the RoI population are eligible for Category I healthcare (i.e. free access based on ability to pay) and about half the population carries private medical insurance. That leaves a substantial part of the population effectively without healthcare! How does one makes a head-for-head comparison on that basis?

    [2] Again, the two-tier system in the RoI disguises a huge differential of service. What are the RoI waiting-lists for Category I?

    [3] The increase 2000-2004 for UK & NI health expenditure was 21.4% (the EU14 average — that is the pre-expansion EU, less the UK & NI — was 7.6%). It appears the problem across the whole of the UK & NI is how the system efficiently employs the additional expenditure, not merely “how much”.

    [4] The other issue, taxation, is predicated to how and how fast additional powers are devolved. The current implications are that not much will happen in taxation and local revenues during the current Assembly term (or did I miss something?). Therefore, we are into cost-saving and transfers of monies across accounts (and also assuming no Treasury claw-back): so which spending committees and Ministers are volunteering excesses?

  • kensei

    “The discussion should also be clear that requiring each 3% section of a large country to break even in budgetary terms is daft in and of itself.”

    We’re aren’t talking about each 3%. We are talking about the 3% that claims it is a country and is getting an awful lot of transfer cash. I’m sure there are plenty of other 3% that would want it.

    “A lot of people WANT to study in another part of the UK. No doubt this also happens in other UK regions. You need to factor that into your figure.”

    True but it’s more than that. There are plenty of people who want to stay but have to leave because we haven’t enough capacity. However, the UK as a whole has plenty of capacity. This is another consequence of being in a BIG country (look, it just got bigger) which is fine apparently to sponge off, but less so when it takes something back. Whoopsie.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I don’t know if you can compare somewhere like Kerry with Northern Ireland but I can tell you that the good people of Kerry don’t make their living from public sector employment.

    I can’t get Kerry on its own in the CSO statistics but the South West region of Ireland has 300,000 people in employment, with just 11,000 of those classified as in Public Administration and defence.

    But if we do compare that means that, per capita, Northern Ireland has three times as many doing PA and defence jobs as Ireland’s South West region.

    The West has 200,000 in work with less than 10,000 in PA and defence.

    As for your suggestions, I am sure savings can be made but Northern Ireland needs a change of focus as much as a tightening of the belt and I don’t advocate declining birth rates as a saving mechanism.

    Also, destroying what could turn out to be the vehicle that will give Northern Ireland control over its finances isn’t advisable in my view. I’m sure savings can be made but a devolved assembly should be looked upon as a plus.

    Do you attribute the same thinking to Connacht and Kerry?

    Yes I do. Every region should have as its target to run at a surplus. Naturally the profits can then be redistributed so that all regions are in a position to compete with each other on an equal footing but all regions should pull their weight.

    I’m with Slug in that there is a difference between government spending and investment. Invest in Northern Ireland, don’t prop it up.

    We wouldn’t help Kerry by giving them lots of Public sector jobs and the people of Kerry wouldn’t want them. They want to have a thriving, balanced economy, more booming Bavaria than backward Brandenburg.

  • Flys @ 12:31 PM:

    Agreed. My point was two-fold (and, remember, this is a TCD man from way back):

    [1] It is obviously good that NI students who choose so should have access to mainland (and other) HE centres. Equally, that mainland (and other) students who choose so should be able to use NI centres. At the moment neither can happen on a free-trade basis, because the NI places are simply not there. If NI had the same provision as the rest of the UK there would be 30% more student places, and that, to me, implies a new HE institution.

    [2] HE institutions are not, any more, ivory towers. They are very much involved in research, consultancy, liaison with industry, providing local training and educational needs. NI is, to the extent I suggest in [1] above, deficient in such provision. This is a thread on industry and employment, and therefore investment in HE should be integral to the debate.

    Happy?

  • slug

    Malcolm

    There should be a new NI university based mainly on the Cathedral Quarter but including the Jordanstown campus of the UU. I would call it St Annes University, Belfast.

    The Coleraine/Magee campuses would form a separate university comprising two colleges, Coleraine College, UU and Magee College, UU.

    St Annes University would be based in a reasonably attractive part of a regional capital city and could hope to attract good students and academics from home and afar. It could hold some joint seminars with QUB.

  • kensei

    Absolute madness to create a new university in Belfast, which is already well served. Derry is a far more sensible place to create one, based on need, or maybe even more Fermanagh / Tyrone direction. Additionally, there is is the possibility of cross border cooperation there to gain more funding and providing an economic boost to a region that could do with it, North and South.

    In terms of attracting students, it would probably siphon off some of the culchies and attract more to Queen’s, and additionally it could be incentivised by providing subsidies for tuition and loans.

    As we are on regional development, Tom Griffin has a good blog on the Green Ribbon:

    http://www.tomgriffin.org/the_green_ribbon/2007/07/the-economics-o.html#more

  • DK

    Derry already has a university at Magee. Makes more sense for a new one to be in either Newry or Portadown area.

  • slug

    In terms of attracting good faculty, and good students, it would be madness to put it anywhere else than Belfast.

    Realistically internationally mobile talent tends to prefer larger cities and Belfast is the only place remotely offering the cultural amenities students and faculty look for.

  • willowfield

    GEORGE

    Also, destroying what could turn out to be the vehicle that will give Northern Ireland control over its finances isn’t advisable in my view. I’m sure savings can be made but a devolved assembly should be looked upon as a plus.

    Then you’re never going to achieve parity with the rest of the UK as the very fact of having an Assembly and regional administration is one of the main reasons why NI has so many public sector jobs.

    Yes I do. Every region should have as its target to run at a surplus. Naturally the profits can then be redistributed so that all regions are in a position to compete with each other on an equal footing but all regions should pull their weight.

    If you redistribute the profits, then those regions who receive the spending will no longer be running at surplus!

  • JG

    @sum(219,403/1,685,000)