“transferring non-core services to the private sector..”

Northern Ireland’s current Finance Minister, and expected next First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, asked Gordon Brown about the second Varney Review [of competitiveness], to follow his previous review of taxation, during Prime Minister’s Questions today and called for the UK government’s response in time for the upcoming US investment conference. As RTÉ reports that review has been published. NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has welcomed the “roadmap to prosperity” and the review itself is available here. PDF file direct link here. RTÉ gives an interesting summary.

In today’s review, Mr Varney indicates that the North’s strengths include a young population, an excellent education system and strong transport links. However, he recommends several reforms to further boost competitiveness.

Recommendations include the transfer of many public sector services to the private sector and greater co-operation with the Irish Government and agencies like the IDA in the development of an all-island economy.

Adds As Mark Devenport says – “There ain’t no Sanity Clause”. Heh.From the Treasury press statement

Sir David’s Review identifies a number of core strengths that make Northern Ireland a good place to do business and attractive to a wide range of investors. These strengths include a young population, an excellent education system, macroeconomic stability, strong transport links with the rest of the UK, Ireland and Europe and ambitious plans for further infrastructure investment. These strengths – alongside a range of investment incentives – have already attracted notable inward investment, and seen some of the strongest growth in output of any UK region.

The Review makes the case that increasing globalisation will bring a number of new challenges to the Northern Ireland economy in the years ahead, as emerging economies compete increasingly in a range of sectors. To succeed in the face of this growing competition, Northern Ireland will need to continue to raise its relatively low productivity and employment rates and reduce the number of low-skilled workers in the economy.

Sir David found that the Northern Ireland Executive has responded well to many of these challenges, and welcomes the priority given to the economy in Northern Ireland’s Programme for Government and the strategies developed to support economic development. The Review concludes that the Executive should now focus on the rapid and effective implementation of those strategies.

To boost the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy further, the Review recommends action in a number of areas, including:

deepening and intensifying public sector reform, in particular increasing the role of the private sector in the delivery of core public services and transferring non-core services to the private sector in order to help stimulate its growth;

ambitious labour market and welfare reform, aimed at increasing the employment rate and reducing the number of people on Incapacity Benefit;

more employer-led skills training to help tackle weaknesses in the stock of skills in the labour market, which is a legacy from the past;

ensuring a joined up approach between Invest Northern Ireland, UK Trade & Investment and the Irish Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to market Northern Ireland to the full; and

continuing development of the all-island economy with the Irish Government, supported by the UK Government, including increased trade, movement of labour and capital, tourism, energy markets and financial services as well as many other sectors.

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  • At last! A croak of sanity from The Raven @ 07:23 PM:

    Amid the shroud-waving, faecal matter and tear-jerking, a recognition of reality:

    business starts are on a par with the UK; I would contest that in the next 24 months, they will outstrip the UK.

    It’s not that NI is short of entrepreneurs and self-starters. It’s just that they are throttled off from expansion by the local business climate. We have become accustomed to the public sector providing, because for nearly four decades nobody else could or would (housing, health and social welfare, education and training, transport, utilities … not each and every one of their activities has to be a nationalised concern). We even, through a variety of subtle subsidies, expect the State to underwrite our religious prejudices.

    We have a very fair share of the one- and five-person operation. What we need is to grow those into medium-sized concerns, … and then the world’s their oxter (or something).

    To do so, we need:

    * a business environment where small concerns can flourish, where they are not throttled by the tendrils of the public enterprises;
    * a financial regime which affords the investment for development;
    * a support system through enterprise schemes and the like which can provide advice, consultancy, IT and accommodation;
    * an education system which develops the managerial and technical personnel to allow that development to happen …

    That is where the continuing ( nota bene continuing) money-flow should go. Yes, it might be painful for the public sector to share … to share … the cash teat. And, yes, if we are lucky just half of the start-ups may fail: that does not greatly matter, if the other half prosper, grow, employ and re-invest.

    None of that is an abrogation of a belief in public service or public-sector provision. It certainly isn’t [pace willowfield @ 10:08 AM] grinding the faces of the oppressed poor.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I don’t like to disappoint so here is step 1 of my general solution.

    There is no choice but to continue to reduce dependence on the subsidy.

    The main emphasis must be on reducing public expenditure. The only other course would be to substantially increase taxation, which Northern Ireland doesn’t have the power or the will to do.

    The reductions in expenditure will have to be made over a wide range of public services so as to minimise the impact on individual services and to achieve as fair a distribution as possible.

    They are essential and overdue. The economy will respond. This is the only basis on which sustainable economic growth and employment can be achieved.

    What to do?

    Where programmes have insufficient justification they have to be curtailed or terminated. There needs to be a reduction in the absolute level of spending.

    To achieve this there needs to be active contribution of management in Assembly Departments to the review of spending programmes and their assistance, in conjunction with the managements of their respective agencies, in ensuring that budget allocations are observed. (good luck with that one)

    There needs to be a complete embargo on recruitment to the public service, except for certain key posts.

    This policy needs to continue for at least 3 years.

    It is necessary to reduce the numbers of public servants, and the cost of the pay bill, more rapidly than could be achieved by relying on natural wastage.

    A scheme of voluntary redundancy offering attractive terms to public servants in areas where staff numbers are surplus to requirements in health boards, local authorities, the Civil Service and other areas of the public sector should be introduced.

    This scheme should be offered on a general basis to employees aged 50 or over.

    A target reduction of about 3.5 per cent per year should be achievable.

    A comprehensive three year public sector wage agreement is needed. Moderate increases is all that can be offered as the cost of even moderate increases is considerable.

    If public service pay developments can be clearly forseen up to 2011, the agreement will greatly facilitate the Assembly in their management of the economy over the period.

    Curtailment of public spending is unavoidable. Spending reductions have to be widely distributed to minimise disruption and to spread the burden as evenly as possible.

    I’ll save what could be done with the money saved and how the private sector can be stimulated for another time.

  • Driftwood

    A scheme of voluntary redundancy offering attractive terms to public servants in areas where staff numbers are surplus to requirements in health boards, local authorities, the Civil Service and other areas of the public sector should be introduced.

    This scheme should be offered on a general basis to employees aged 50 or over.

    Brilliant! And how to fund the redundancy packages and the huge pension payment deficit?

    I’m all for it but the upcoming generation are going to have to fund it somehow.

    This will take decades to resolve. No such thing as a free lunch, but by golly, the teachers, police, UDR, civil service got the best deal ever in the past decade , and the chickens have come home to shit all over the province.
    The Reg Varney review will be superceded by many more similar “reviews”, and nothing will be done.

    Going cold turkey on the treasury subsidy is not good medicine, weaning ourselves off this addiction is going to mean conflict. Big time. And a crunching global economy will be unsympathetic. I’m afraid i don’t have a solution.
    Pray?

  • George

    Driftwood,
    And how to fund the redundancy packages and the huge pension payment deficit?

    I’m all for it but the upcoming generation are going to have to fund it somehow.

    There is no answer that doesn’t involve pain but the sooner the treatment starts the better. We have already had 10 years and virtually no progress has been made on tackling these structural issues.

    A price will be paid for this profligacy. The bill will be handed on to the next generation.

    As for the pension payment deficit, it will be larger with so many public sector workers. Down south the estimated pension liability for one teacher is put at 1 million euros.

    A conservative estimate for the pension liability of the surplus 60,000 public sector workers north of the border is 36 billion pounds.

    That’s what’s coming down the line for the people of Northern Ireland.

    The numbers have to be reduced and that liability has to be reduced starting now.

    The quicker the reduction takes place, the less the pain felt in the long term. Natural wastage, voluntary redundancy and recruitment freezes are the only options available to reduce the number of Public Sector workers.

  • Brian Boru

    This is a good report. “Big Government” is bad for economic growth. State-owned monopolies are inefficient and rip people off, strangling the private sector businesses and harming consumer spending and investment. Competition and privatisation increases choice and efficiency, helping to bring down prices.

  • Brian Boru @ 11:22 AM:

    State-owned monopolies are inefficient and rip people off

    Do try to keep up, or keep your blinkers on and go and live in the fastnesses of Idaho. Would you apply that argument to the entirety of the state apparatus? To the postal services, the NHS, the tax-collection system, welfare payments, justice, the police, the armed forces … ?

    I seem to recall that the Thatcherite attempt to privatise pensions went somewhere beyond the limits of rip-off. Few of us are wholly convinced that rail and water were particularly successful privatisations. As for BAA, which was supposed to improve choice, service and provision of runway space, the rest should be silence.

    Lordy! the Chicago school of economics has a lot to answer for. Particularly among those who heard the dog-whistle but failed the reading module.

    Curiously these sub-libertarians, with their casual sweeping generalisations, cop out when “freedom of choice” is applied to, say, which side of the road we drive on. As with the Stalinist state capitalists, the concept of discussion is no more than boneheaded chanting: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Sorry to repeat myself.

    Anyway, that is not the main thrust of this thread, which has had some acute and serious discussion. I don’t agree with much of it. The fact that it can happen is good enough.

  • Comrade Stalin

    600,000 public servants (say)

    Average salary = 20,000

    = £12,000,000,000

    = 12/455 = 2.6%

    Jo, you sound like a nice person but you’re exposing your naiveity here. The cost of employing a person is significantly greater than paying their salary. You have to maintain the workplace that they’re in, keep it lit and heated, provide electricity, computers (and the associated support), telephones, etc. Then you’ve to pay employer’s NIC contributions and other taxes, their pension, and various other things. Try taking the salary and multiplying it by about 3. Either way, your average salary is likely to be way off. Senior civil servants and managers are paid much larger amounts. Look at yer wan who ran the water company – she was on £250K or something stupid like that. I’d say she had various minions who were on salaries nearly as big as hers.

    Willowfield,

    I didn’t advocate contracting out services in my posting, I advocated a reduction in the civil service headcount through “natural” causes such as resignation and retirement, and additionally by keeping open a rolling voluntary redundancy scheme. And I’m not advocating cutting doctors or nurses, or bin men, or front line staff who serve the public (I agree with LURIG, those guys need a medal; and I’d be in favour of introducing a specific offence of being abusive or violent towards frontline medical or civil service staff). I’m advocating cutting the numbers of backroom administrators and pencil pushers, and I’m also advocating doing away with most of the stupid quangos we’ve got here, the human rights body being a case in point, where intellectual toffs are paid large amounts of money to publish “reports” either telling us stuff we already know or trying to enforce their daft agenda on everyone.

    Since you ask about outsourcing, the idea is a popular one and it is practiced in the private sector as well as in the public sector. The idea of outsourcing is to encourage efficiency and keep costs down, something which a government, just like a very large private sector firm, has a hard time doing. If it works to improve the bottom line for profit-maximising private sector firms, which it must do otherwise they wouldn’t do it, why shouldn’t it work for the government ?

  • Jo

    CS

    But lets not discount the fact that the CS pays tax straight back to their employer. No other employer gets that discount, right? 🙂

  • Jo

    CS:

    The SCS is a case in point but there are only a few hundred of them. There were a significant numnber whose pay had to be uplifted last eyar. Why? because their rate didnt even meet the minimum wage level. I ask you?

    And as for Katharine Bryan? The highest paid public servant in NI, including Sir Nigel Hamilton. But then again she had to be paid what she was, because utility CEOs are paid that amount. And she was way below the max in that area of work.

  • Jo

    “There were a significant number ”

    I mean ordinary civil servants, who are mostly Administrative Assistants (AAs) and Administrative Officers (AOs)

  • Garibaldy

    CS,

    I can think of several businesses that outsourced, but then took aspects back because the quality of service dropped.

    There may well be a good case for reform and even for the privitisation of some things (though I can’t really think of what of the top of my head). However, a blind rush motivated merely by the desire to be seen to be cutting and saving money is likely to lead to a balls-up, as it has done in those few areas in NI already privitised.

  • Jo

    I’ve yet to see a rational case for downsizing the public sector that wouldnt be self contradictory in terms of:

    putting more people on the dole,

    avoiding huge payoffs to people in top jobs,

    pushing people into low paid and heavily subsided posts that disappear when the cost benefit analysis determines that its time to move to China.

    Its just based on irrational hatred of tax money going to pay people that live on the same streets and go the same coffee shops as those that work for a private concern. Its irrational because that private concern probably relies on a greater proportion of public money for its business the amount that is actually paid to the people sitting in the coffee shop that they have a problem with. But then again, that isnt either here or there.

    Right?

  • The Spectator

    Willowfield

    Some good points. If is of use to you, I was recently invited to a Scottish Government conference.

    Under discussion? Areas for public ‘savings’. The interesting info? despite the public perception, the administration of the Scottish government; including all Civil Servant pay; was less than 0.75% of their annual ‘turnover’.

    One private sector economist pointed out that this made them more ‘efficient’ than Tesco!

    The great costs are overwhelmingly Social Security, followed by Health and Education. Said economist demonstrated that saving just under 2.5% of the Social Security budget would save more money than abolishing the entire Scottish Civil Service.

    I don’t know what the answers are, but I thought i’d give you the info to mull.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jo, this has already been done in the PSNI which has been significantly downsized as compared to the RUC days. It’s not like we’re advocating doing something which has never been done before. You don’t fire the civil servants, you give them severance packages or simply stop recruiting new ones for a while, and they have the choice of early retirement or going into the private sector where there are plenty of jobs – look at the BT jobfinder on a Friday.

    Garibaldy, I know of cases where outsourcing worked, and cases where it didn’t work. But in most cases it does the job it’s there to do, that’s why we enjoy such a high standard of living here. The majority of our knowledge-based economy here (where all the quality jobs are) is tied up in outsourcing.

  • aquifer

    Lets talk about risk adjusted returns.

    The dole or a public service salary and pensions package may not offer the highest returns, but they are very dependable returns and therefore actually worth more. So public servants have a very good rewards package relative to the private sector where jobs are much less secure and often poorly paid.

    So to get civil servants to let go of their privilege we would have to either sack them, or promise them their job back if they wanted to try something else and it did not work out.

    There is a cultural problem with letting the more capable civil servants ‘out on private sector parole’ in this second way. It would radically undermine the power of senior civil servants to ‘sit on’ and exploit their more capable underlings, and risk the exposure of civil service malpractice by former insiders. It would also leave accumulations of generalist deadwood begging the axe.

    We have to do it.

  • willowfield

    GEORGE

    The main emphasis must be on reducing public expenditure. … The economy will respond … I’ll save what could be done with the money saved and how the private sector can be stimulated for another time.

    Oh come on, George! It is the private sector side of the equation which I am asking about! We already know that you want to cut public expenditure!

    COMRADE STALIN

    I didn’t advocate contracting out services in my posting …

    OK – just thought you were posting in support of the thesis of the blog.

    … I advocated a reduction in the civil service headcount through “natural” causes such as resignation and retirement, and additionally by keeping open a rolling voluntary redundancy scheme. And I’m not advocating cutting doctors or nurses, or bin men, or front line staff who serve the public … I’m advocating cutting the numbers of backroom administrators and pencil pushers, and I’m also advocating doing away with most of the stupid quangos we’ve got here, the human rights body being a case in point, where intellectual toffs are paid large amounts of money to publish “reports” either telling us stuff we already know or trying to enforce their daft agenda on everyone.

    I agree that there is much scope for a reduction in administration. I doubt, though, that in the big scheme of things it’ll make much of a dent in public spending (see The Spectator’s post).

  • willowfield

    The way I look at the economic issue in NI (i.e. dependence on the public sector) is to ask why is NI more dependent on the public sector than other parts of the UK, or other countries.

    If we can answer this question, then we can understand what is needed in order to reduce dependency.

    George et al’s solutions are simply a kneejerk response with no guarantee of success and a huge risk of disaster. Sacking thousands of workers when there are no other jobs for them to do increases the social security bill and removes their spending power from the economy, thus “impacting” on existing private sector businesses and risking a downward spiral.

    There are three reasons why I think NI attracts more public expenditure than other places:

    1. Over-administration (we are a population of only 1.7m people yet we have our own parliament, eleven government departments and various QUANGOs and agencies).

    2. Soft community funding (grants handed out to community groups, etc., largely in support of the “community development” model of dealing with social problems and particularly those associated with the Troubles and its legacy.

    3. Greater social need (we have poorer health, higher levels of disability and sickness, higher rates of long-term unemployment, and a younger population requiring more education provision).

    Reason 1 can be tackled relatively easily by a reduction in the number of MLAs, departments and other bodies and a reduction in the size of the civil service. As noted above, however, the relative impact on public expenditure is greatly exaggerated.

    Reason 2 can be tackled relatively easily simply by cutting funding, but this would even less impact than reason 1.

    It is, in fact, reason 3 that is the main reason why we have greater public expenditure than elsewhere and therefore it is reason 3 that really needs to be tackled.

    So what are the causes of our poor health, high disability, etc.? And how do we deal with them?

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I never once mentioned “sacking” people. I said natural wastage, voluntary redundancy and a three-year freeze on recruitment.

    This is the emotive type stuff that always follows when the very idea of an efficient public sector is raised.

    Why misquote me?

  • willowfield

    George

    I never once mentioned “sacking” people. I said natural wastage, voluntary redundancy and a three-year freeze on recruitment.

    Nonetheless, all you have articulated thus far is the need to reduce the number of public sector jobs (by whatever means or however it is described).

    Still you won’t tell us how this alone will result in economic success. Surely there are two sides to the equation?

  • kensei

    willow

    Still you won’t tell us how this alone will result in economic success. Surely there are two sides to the equation?

    Hell, I’ll pretend I’m Mick on Brassneck for a moment, and indulge my inner Tory. The fallacy you are falling into is the idea that the government should be doing anything about the other side of the equation. To wit Reagan: “The Government is the problem”.

  • willowfield

    If it is George’s view that the Government should not do anything about the other side of the equation, then he should say so. Thus far, he hasn’t.

    And if that is his view, he should also explain why he thinks not doing anything about the other side of the equation will result in economic success.

  • kensei

    willow

    If it is George’s view that the Government should not do anything about the other side of the equation, then he should say so. Thus far, he hasn’t.

    Look up what the Republic has done over the past 20 years. 10-1 he comes out with a similar if not identical prescription. You are pressing this in an attempt to show NI isn’t really a basket case or that nothing needs done? It’s not a sustainable position.

    And if that is his view, he should also explain why he thinks not doing anything about the other side of the equation will result in economic success.

    Reduction in the size of the state means that people do not walk into jobs in the public sector: there is more incentive to start a private enterprise. Those that don’t start one have more incentive to work for one. Swap public sector employment for private sector employment and you haven’t simply replaced a job, you’ve also created a profit making exercise that expands the economy.

    Of course, real life isn’t as simple as that, and I don’t particularly believe in doing nothing (or simply introducing measures to cut the state further, like shedding tax or regulation) but there would be plenty in that. The “other side of the equation” has precious little to do with whether the current public expenditure is too big. I know you’d like it to be otherwise, but it should concern any rational individual, Unionist or Nationalist. Though not always for the same reasons.

  • willowfield

    Reduction in the size of the state means that people do not walk into jobs in the public sector: there is more incentive to start a private enterprise. Those that don’t start one have more incentive to work for one. Swap public sector employment for private sector employment and you haven’t simply replaced a job, you’ve also created a profit making exercise that expands the economy.

    Sure, but this is all based on the premise that it public sector reliance is all down to jobs. As I have noted before – jobs are only part of it and the cause for reliance is only partly (and a small part) down to administration costs. Public spending does not all go into salaries – it goes into equipment, property, services, etc. And it does not all go into administration – the vast majority goes into public services.

    So we are back to my main point above – why is NI in need of more public services than elsewhere? That is the root cause of the additional public spending.

    The “other side of the equation” has precious little to do with whether the current public expenditure is too big.

    I agree. We should be trying to encourage private business regardless.

  • kensei

    willow

    Sure, but this is all based on the premise that it public sector reliance is all down to jobs. As I have noted before – jobs are only part of it and the cause for reliance is only partly (and a small part) down to administration costs. Public spending does not all go into salaries – it goes into equipment, property, services, etc. And it does not all go into administration – the vast majority goes into public services.

    Yes, and “those equipment, property, services etc” will mean that further jobs rely on the largess of the public sector: it’s how we have 28% public sector employment, but a public sector dependence of 70+%. The point you are missing is that the whole pie needs to decrease.

    So we are back to my main point above – why is NI in need of more public services than elsewhere? That is the root cause of the additional public spending.

    We don’t. The British Government pushed a lot of those jobs here in order to mitigate against the economic impact of the Troubles. Even then, it’s unlikely that many things could not be run more efficiently.

  • willowfield

    Yes, and “those equipment, property, services etc” will mean that further jobs rely on the largess of the public sector: it’s how we have 28% public sector employment, but a public sector dependence of 70+%.

    Indeed. So how does cutting public sector jobs solve the problem, when the purchasing of equipment, property, services, etc., will continue at a disproportionately high rate?

    The point you are missing is that the whole pie needs to decrease.

    On the contrary, I get the point – but I ask how can the whole pie decrease simply by cutting admin jobs?

    We don’t. The British Government pushed a lot of those jobs here in order to mitigate against the economic impact of the Troubles. Even then, it’s unlikely that many things could not be run more efficiently.

    You miss the point – it’s not merely about efficiency. There is greater social need in NI, hence we need to spend more on health, social services, etc. How do we deal with that issue?

  • kensei

    willow

    Indeed. So how does cutting public sector jobs solve the problem, when the purchasing of equipment, property, services, etc., will continue at a disproportionately high rate?

    Why would it? Knock 8% off your public workforce to bring it to the UK average and you have less need for equipment, buildings and the like. Efficiency savings are likely to deliver more than simply workforce reduction: there will also undoubtedly be duplication in spending and facilities. Likely too – reduction of waste, reduction in expenses.

    On the contrary, I get the point – but I ask how can the whole pie decrease simply by cutting admin jobs?

    It won’t on its own. Though cutting admin jobs may well be a good idea, and may still help. Fortunately no one is suggesting that you only cut admin jobs, except you in building your Straw Man.

    You miss the point – it’s not merely about efficiency. There is greater social need in NI, hence we need to spend more on health, social services, etc. How do we deal with that issue?

    Many places in Britain and Ireland have “more social need” than here and do not get the money lavished on us. And these are not all problems that can be cured by throwing money at it. I’d guess that a better functioning economy would produce “less social need”, for a start. Even then, that is an argument for a moderate increase in spending, not Communist economics.

    Public spending has to come down. Spinning on social need and the like will not change the fact we are a basket case. The numbers are unsustainable, for a start.

    Fuck me. I am Social Democrat really. Just when the economy is at over 70% public sector dependence, and you think that 45-55% is a suitable range, arguing from the Right seems the only intellectually honest position.

  • consul

    A few years ago in the south the big thing was de-centralisation of the Civil Service. All of the departments were in Dublin and the thinking was if they were despatched across the state to I think 53 large towns with just a few remaining in Dublin, it might stimulate regional development. But most of the civil servants refused to move, not wanting to leave the big smoke and the idea eventually got shelved. So I wonder if the two civil services were merged, apart from saving both juristictions money, could it be a sneaky way to de-centralise somewhat. Or is the entire NI civil service also resident in Belfast? Even so it would move some of it around and would be a start to de-centralisation.

  • Jo

    Public spending has to come down

    yes and with it will come down taxation. BUT THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING as cutting civil servant jobs.

    YET another example: how many jobs salary would have been funded by the useless immoral war in Iraq?

  • kensei

    Jo

    yes and with it will come down taxation. BUT THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING as cutting civil servant jobs.

    Might be a good start though.

    YET another example: how many jobs salary would have been funded by the useless immoral war in Iraq?

    It’s entirely unrelated.

  • Jo

    K

    How do you think the billions of pounds spent in Iraq are raised? Its public money. Yours and mine. And I dont want my money spent on that. I dont think you do as well. And when we dont have a war? Where is that money being spent? And where wuld the money currently being spent in Iraq be spent otherwise? In a tax cut?

    If anyone genuinely wants cuts in public expenditure, lets have a poll everytime billions of our money is pledged to kill people.

  • Jo

    This is actually the maddening thing about the Right, they get a bee in their bonnet about public spending and dnt realise that their wish to go and kill terrorists requires – yeah, u guessed it, public money.

    Unless of course you’re Freddie Forsyth or a certain relation of a former PM. Then you use your own money.

    But it still doesnt make you right. Or even rational. Public spending is what is spent when tax is taken from people.

    That taking may be wrong, in your view, but it is legal.

    No one wants more money taken from them than has to be to keep us safe. So why exactly, and how exactly is my personal safety, being helped by my tax money being spent (a) allying with a country led by an imbecile backing Israel and annoying the entire Middle east and (b) invading 2 countries that my country wasnt at war with?

    I do realise Im being polemic. But I havent actually vehemently wishedfor thousands of people to die. Thats where I differ from those on the Right.

  • willowfield

    KENSEI

    Why would it? Knock 8% off your public workforce to bring it to the UK average and you have less need for equipment, buildings and the like.

    Efficiency savings will not bring us into line with the UK average because – as I keep saying – inefficiency is not the only reason that we are above the UK average. We also have greater social need and hence more need for services.

    It won’t on its own. Though cutting admin jobs may well be a good idea, and may still help. Fortunately no one is suggesting that you only cut admin jobs, except you in building your Straw Man.

    So you are also suggesting that we cut “front-line” jobs – teachers, nurses, doctors, police, binmen, road-building and repairs, etc.?

    Many places in Britain and Ireland have “more social need” than here and do not get the money lavished on us.

    I think we have the highest levels of social need, although I could be wrong.

    And these are not all problems that can be cured by throwing money at it. I’d guess that a better functioning economy would produce “less social need”, for a start. Even then, that is an argument for a moderate increase in spending, not Communist economics. Public spending has to come down. Spinning on social need and the like will not change the fact we are a basket case. The numbers are unsustainable, for a start.

    People in NI are entitled to the same level of social provision as people throughout the UK. That means, if we have worse health, for example, we get more health provision; if we have a younger population, we have more school places; if we have a more rural population, we have more spending on roads and transport. That “extra” spending will always remain unless the nature of society changes.

    Of course, there are efficiencies to be made, and they should be made, but it’s only part of the answer (and possibly only a small part).

    Fuck me. I am Social Democrat really. Just when the economy is at over 70% public sector dependence, and you think that 45-55% is a suitable range, arguing from the Right seems the only intellectually honest position.

    What is the level of public sector dependence in the UK as a whole? In Scotland, Wales and England? In the Republic? In Norway? In Sweden?

  • kensei

    Efficiency savings will not bring us into line with the UK average because – as I keep saying – inefficiency is not the only reason that we are above the UK average. We also have greater social need and hence more need for services.

    Why? You keep saying this but I see no evidence. the Republic, with similar population distribution and still trying to update its infrastructure, copes on about half our public expenditure.

    So you are also suggesting that we cut “front-line” jobs – teachers, nurses, doctors, police, binmen, road-building and repairs, etc.?

    Of course there are only two possible ways to reduce expenditure: cutting admin or cutting front line staff :rolleyes:

    I’m unsure how many frontline staff we have in comparison to other places. It’s always unpopular, but you can’t necessarily rules that out either through natural wastage at least.

    I think we have the highest levels of social need, although I could be wrong.

    I’d suspect the figures are being fiddled to come up with that result.

    People in NI are entitled to the same level of social provision as people throughout the UK. That means, if we have worse health, for example, we get more health provision; if we have a younger population, we have more school places; if we have a more rural population, we have more spending on roads and transport. That “extra” spending will always remain unless the nature of society changes.

    They are not entitled to the same amount of provision of any cost: the rest of UK will rightly refuse to pay for it. Moreover, they are refusing to pay for it because the amount of money we get is going to come down. Thankfully not to normal levels right away, or we’d have a Depression but they are going to come down in real terms. Demanding your entitlements will not change that reality.

    Second, you are suggesting we are a level so much further below Wales, or Scotland, or Northern England or Inner London as to justify another 30% a head.

    Third, the answer to poor health is not necessarily spending vast sums on the NHS here indefinitely. Changing society by changing dietary and exercise habits is the long term solution, for example. That in the long run costs less.

    Of course, there are efficiencies to be made, and they should be made, but it’s only part of the answer (and possibly only a small part).

    The rest of the answer does not necessarily require vast amounts of money.

    What is the level of public sector dependence in the UK as a whole? In Scotland, Wales and England? In the Republic? In Norway? In Sweden?

    I’d have to dig to get the figures, but off the top of my head they are roughly

    US ~ 35%
    Republic ~ 35-40%
    UK ~ 40-45%
    *** Scotland ~ 55%
    *** Northern Ireland ~ 70-75% (think I may have read 79% somewhere)
    Nordic ~ 50-55%

    Do you get how out of whack we are? Do you get how far off our “need” would have to be to be anywhere near that?

  • willowfield

    Efficiency savings will not bring us into line with the UK average because – as I keep saying – inefficiency is not the only reason that we are above the UK average. We also have greater social need and hence more need for services.

    Why? You keep saying this but I see no evidence.

    I thought it was common knowledge that, using the various indicators, NI has higher social need than most other parts of the UK? I’m sorry but I don’t have time to search for data.

    the Republic, with similar population distribution and still trying to update its infrastructure, copes on about half our public expenditure.

    I doubt that very much. How could a population three times ours spend half of what we do? I think what you mean is that the ROI has a higher tax rate and therefore, proportionately, public spending is much less?

    I’m unsure how many frontline staff we have in comparison to other places. It’s always unpopular, but you can’t necessarily rules that out either through natural wastage at least.

    I think we need to assess need – what is our need and what provision is necessary? If we need x hospitals and x thousand staff to run them, then that is what we need. It may be that we currently have too many hospitals and too many staff, but without some kind of objective assessment, we don’t know. In the absence of an assessment, we risk leaving ourselves with substandard public services.

    They are not entitled to the same amount of provision of any cost: the rest of UK will rightly refuse to pay for it.

    It is a principle of modern, liberal democracies that, in any given country, the citizens are entitled to the same levels of provision regardless of where they happen to live. People in Cumbria are entitled to the same social security benefits as people in Kent, etc. People in Kerry the same as people in Louth.

    Moreover, they are refusing to pay for it because the amount of money we get is going to come down.

    I’m unaware of any plans to change the Barnett formula or the principle of parity.

    Second, you are suggesting we are a level so much further below Wales, or Scotland, or Northern England or Inner London as to justify another 30% a head.

    I’m not. I’m just saying that reducing inefficiencies will not cut the disparity. Our “level” is unlikely to justify another 30% a head, but it might justify another 10%.

    Third, the answer to poor health is not necessarily spending vast sums on the NHS here indefinitely.

    Which is precisely why I ask the question! If we really want to cut public spending we need to deal with these issues – improve health and there is less demand on the health service!

    Changing society by changing dietary and exercise habits is the long term solution, for example. That in the long run costs less.

    Thank you.

    What is the level of public sector dependence in the UK as a whole? In Scotland, Wales and England? In the Republic? In Norway? In Sweden?

    I’d have to dig to get the figures, but off the top of my head they are roughly US ~ 35% Republic ~ 35-40% UK ~ 40-45% *** Scotland ~ 55%
    *** Northern Ireland ~ 70-75% (think I may have read 79% somewhere) Nordic ~ 50-55%

    OK, and what about the levels of public employment in those countries. How does that compare?

  • willowfield

    I support efficiency but I don’t support substandard public services.

    If we can make efficiencies in administration and in services, let’s do so.

    If we need higher levels of public services than other places, then let’s tackle the issues that cause us to have greater need.

  • kensei

    I thought it was common knowledge that, using the various indicators, NI has higher social need than most other parts of the UK? I’m sorry but I don’t have time to search for data.

    Neither do I. We’ll have to take it as read you are wrong :P.

    I doubt that very much. How could a population three times ours spend half of what we do? I think what you mean is that the ROI has a higher tax rate and therefore, proportionately, public spending is much less?

    Per capita, willow. The Republic does not have a higher rate of taxation, which almost always implies higher spending anyway, in the round it is less:

    http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Taxes/P148855.asp

    It is a principle of modern, liberal democracies that, in any given country, the citizens are entitled to the same levels of provision regardless of where they happen to live. People in Cumbria are entitled to the same social security benefits as people in Kent, etc. People in Kerry the same as people in Louth.

    But not the people in Northern Ireland vis the people of Scotland or Wales. That is devolution in action. The principle is irrelevant, what matters is the budget. We have a little “peace bonus”. That will not be there next time. If Tories are in and cut spending, that will be reflected in our budget too. Either party could well squeeze us a little here anyway. That is reality, which you seem content to deny.

    I’m unaware of any plans to change the Barnett formula or the principle of parity.

    See above. Not my fault you can’t read the writing on the wall, willow.

    I’m not. I’m just saying that reducing inefficiencies will not cut the disparity. Our “level” is unlikely to justify another 30% a head, but it might justify another 10%.

    Possibly, though I reckon Scotland has a much better case. But the aim of any administration should be to cut the gap, regardless.

    Which is precisely why I ask the question! If we really want to cut public spending we need to deal with these issues – improve health and there is less demand on the health service!

    But spending still needs cut. It might get rid of 10% of the 30% gap. Or 15% or 20%. Who knows. But there is only so much money, and we’re a basket case and wishing hard won’t change it.

    OK, and what about the levels of public employment in those countries. How does that compare?

    No idea: I’d guess it is proportional. Regardless there is only so much pie to go around, and the slice taken by the public sector dwarfs that of the private sector. The public sector needs cut back. At the size we are at it is likely almost everything needs cut.

  • willowfield

    Kensei

    Per capita, willow. The Republic does not have a higher rate of taxation, which almost always implies higher spending anyway, in the round it is less:

    Sorry – I meant to say higher “tax take”, not tax rate. In other words, the Republic takes more tax (due to economic success) and therefore the amount is spends on public services is proportionately less, but – in absolute terms – might well be at a similar per capita level to NI or elsewhere.

    But not the people in Northern Ireland vis the people of Scotland or Wales. That is devolution in action. The principle is irrelevant, what matters is the budget.

    No because the budget is calculated for Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to take into account the principle of parity – there are two parts to the budget – that which is discretionary and that which is universal in UK terms (e.g. social security). Even the discretionary part remains, under Barnett, the same size relative to England).

    If Tories are in and cut spending, that will be reflected in our budget too.

    Indeed, but it will be reflected in the UK-wide budget, too. They won’t cut spending in NI and Wales, but maintain it in England. Under Barnett, we get the same increases or cuts as they do in England.

    Possibly, though I reckon Scotland has a much better case. But the aim of any administration should be to cut the gap, regardless.

    I agree with that – the “headline” policy cutting across everything should be to boost our private economy – but that policy needs to encompass more than simply cutting public sector jobs and spending, and the scope for cutting the latter is limited.