McGimpsey’s Progress

Mr. McGimpsey seems very pleased with the allocation to health in the new budget. McGimpsey has claimed that the new budget gives him £150 million extra over the next three years. This seems to be broken down into £30 million extra revenue, £60 million from other departments under spends and £60 million from efficiency savings from his own department. Sceptics have, however, suggested that the total amount of new money may be as little as £57 million extra over the next three years. Even this more modest increase is of course to be welcomed and Mr. McGimpsey congratulated on achieving it.When one turns to the Department’s web site one sees a truly impressive list of improvements that this money will be funding. However, when one reads a little more closely it becomes clear that all these impressive measures “will be taken forward as part of the budget agreed by the Executive.” Taking things forward does not mean quite the same thing as actually delivering them now does it?

Even if Mr. McGimpsey has an extra £150 million, it is rather doubtful whether or not all the proposals of the Department could be met. There is possibly a way by which we could really progress. That would be to make truly radical savings; I have commented on this previously but one of the big areas where savings could be made is in the number of acute hospitals, as well as other specific savings. One of the things which pleased me most during the recent rows about the budget was the claim that some in the DUP had suggested not building the new South West hospital or the new Downe. It is not that I have anything against these two projects per se (though the Downe seems very unlikely to be able to deliver acute services) but that someone had at last started to talk even tangentially about the possibility of reducing hospital numbers. I note that no leading members of the DUP ever came out and said this very publicly and there seemed little debate about these suggestions on the media.

Sadly, I fear McGimpsey will now plough on with his new money and I doubt if he will really look at reducing the numbers of acute hospitals or at other serious efficiency savings. Indeed he seems to find it hard not to suggest possible support for other new projects such as a cancer centre for Londonderry. Michael McGimpsey, if he was willing to be radical and initially unpopular could between this new money and efficiency savings transform the Northern Ireland Health Service. If he did that people would look back approvingly in twenty years and say that he had real vision and courage. I fear that especially with this new money and his own over inflation of its amount he will instead muddle along and so many of these grand dreams will either turn to ashes or be half baked. And yes if that happens, sadly lives will be put at risk.

  • Mark McGregor

    I’d be interested to see what Ritchie means by £205 million translating into 5,250 affordable homes.

    That nearly £40K per house. I’d suggest she could just fund 5,250 homes for people that will never be able to afford one, the people on the housing waiting list for example, nothing fancy, just a home.

    Feeding into the home ownership frenzy while people can’t even get a home to rent from the Housing Exec is surely as good an example of the ‘right wing’ budget the SDLP have been whinging about as you get?

    Matbe it’s only ‘right wing’ when others do it? Eh, Mr Durkan?

  • joeCanuck

    I think you’re being a bit pre-judgemental, Turgon.
    Give the man a chance; he’s just got his budget.

  • Turgon

    Yes Joe I accept that I am sceptical. I would like to be wrong. We will wait and see though I will not be holding my breath.

  • Outsider

    It will be interesting to find out if McGimpsey can get the basics right and ensure hospitals are at least clean.

  • cynic

    While the total allocation is up slightly, is it not the case that the percentage of new money going to health has actually fallen from the draft budget from 51 to 50%?

  • While I think you’re right about what McGimpsey should do and I also wish more politicians would be brave enough to take decisions that are unpopular in the short term the simple truth is there is no motivation for them to do so. For example, where you say:

    “If he did that people would look back approvingly in twenty years and say that he had real vision and courage.”

    I disagree. Look at what happened to Margaret Thatcher. All anyone ever talks about is how much they hate her – to the point where it’s engrained as part of popular culture. Nobody remembers why she swept to power in the first place: because the unions had been practically running the country and ground it to a halt.

    Her legacy? Just look to the telecoms market now vis-a-vis the BT monopoly. Do people talk about that? No. But they remember her stopping free milk for primary schools (though nobody lambasts Labour for ending the secondary school program).

    Do you really think the voting populace of Northern Ireland are more sophisticated?

    Sadly, we get the politicians we deserve. That’s the price of democracy.

  • The UUP have not got a great experience of risking unpopularity in order to show political courage in recent times.

  • Chekov – after Trimble do you blame them?

  • Precisely my point Beano. Trimble was very much on my mind.

  • Ian

    A lot of this ‘extra’ money comes from the devolved government’s departmental underspends, right?

    But presumably any underspends in the NIO-run criminal justice sector will currently go straight back to the Treasury as justice matters aren’t yet devolved.

    Surely that’s another big incentive to agree to devolution of justice, so that more money can be directed towards the devolved administration, instead of central government coffers?

  • Continental Drifter


    What are you on about?

    McGimpsey’s rise is the same as OFMDFM’s!

    The UUP threw all their toys out the pram for this?

    What a joke.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Nobody remembers why she swept to power in the first place: because the unions had been practically running the country and ground it to a halt.

    Perhaps people remember her for the boom and bust cycles, the selling off of national assets to the rich, or the poll tax, or the cosying up to tyrants like General Pinochet, or the interference in the NHS. The woman was insane.

  • lib2016

    Before Thatcher climbed to power, allegedly with the help of a foreign secret service agency which had destabilised two previous administrations, the state of industrial relations in England was pretty terrible.

    By the time she departed she had managed to make them worse again and had destroyed what little ‘social capital’ England possessed.

  • nectar

    Hogwash lib2016 you obviously have no idea about economics.

  • lib2016


    There are two ways to deal with trade unions;

    1/ co-opt them as partners

    2/ confront and crush them

    Thatcher chose the second way and it has destroyed any hope of agreed pay restraint in Britain. Now that we face a depression the price for that confrontation will have to be paid in strikes and a lack of responsibility in the trade unions who see their role in that context.

    The rest of Europe has opted for the first way with steady attainable growth – Germany is not planning for a depression and for all her troubles has a social cohesion we can only envy.