Tomorrow the Executive meets to discuss the budget. Here at Slugger we’ve done a little calculation of the figures to give you an idea what the Dept of Finance is planning to hand out to each Minister over the next three years. Top of the poll of winners, we reckon, comes the Dept for Regional Development with a stonking 20% increase over the next three years. Take a bow Conor Murphy, the man from Castlereagh has done you proud. It’s also in line with the DUP’s pro business agenda, infra structure was always going to come to the fore. Although baring in mind that the reduction of Office of First and Deputy First Minister was a primary aim of their negotiations with Sinn Féin, they seem to have failed miserably in cutting back budgets there, since it comes in at number two. Pumping up of budgets perhaps reflects the pumping up of the ‘Deputy’s side of the Joint Office’. Shades of Gonzo’s line last August (they support cut backs, unless they are in it). Health comes in at fifth with a more modest 11% increase. And DSD is second from bottom with an 2% increase (which incorporates a cut one year and a stand still the next). Now a word of warning before people read the league tables. There is no common base for all of these figures. Health and Social Development have much larger budgets than the others. As John Simpson points out in his piece in the Belfast Telegraph, the importance often lies in the detail, not the headline. Nevertheless, there will be some people wondering just where this DUP/Sinn Fein led government is headed. As one wit suggested to Slugger before Christmas, “it could be headed towards becoming another Castlereagh: low rates and no services”!
Don’t expect a meeting of harmony and light. tomorrow