Foster ‘does a Ritchie’ as DUP love/hate quangos…

“I am opposed to the setting up of yet more quangos where unelected people take decisions on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland,” said our environment minister today, when she noted that the creation of an independent environmental protection agency would have estimated running costs of £600,000. This is in stark contrast to the creation of the unelected Victims Commission quango, which officially came into being today, is fully-backed by her own party, and which will fork out £260,000 in salaries for four people alone. And since the three other parties in the Executive back the creation of an independent environmental protection agency, will the DUP now back off other ministers after Arlene Foster’s own ‘solo run’?

  • Dave

    I can’t fault her for believing that decisions that affect the public should be made by those who are democratically accountable to the public, and not by those who are not. Ireland is overrun by Quangos, so no lectures about wasting taxpayers’ money from this quarter. I don’t think you picked a good example to contrast with, as her department wasn’t responsible for the Victim’s Commissioner – and that was a political decision aimed at undermining the pursuit of justice for those who are victims of violence by those who are victimizers rather than an example of financial mismanagement.

  • joeCanuck

    I’m inclined to agree, Dave. An independent body is hard to hold accountable.
    I’d much prefer that an elected Minister’s head is on the block when bad decisions are made.

  • 0b101010

    Well, she’s right.

  • Hogan

    Foster may well have a point, but her argument is completely undermined both by the hopeless performance of the EHS up to date in enforcing environmental regulations.

    You could see the civil-servant-eese oozing through every sentence. Let’s educate people first, etc. That’s a handy number for the regulation unit, draw up some leaflets… sorry i forgot, its Northern Ireland… Commission a PR company at the cost of thousands to draw up a leaflet.

    Then her other ideas?

    2: Regulation
    3: Enforcement

    Anyone think it strange how these two are in different stages?

    (i.e. What’s the point of Regulations without enforcement immediately???)

    Not if you view it as a clue as to how the lazy bastards in DOE are going to approach it.

    We’ll have 5 years of educational handholding and Mrs Doyle-esque ‘go-an go-an go-an stop dumping your nasty shite in the rivers lads’

    Then eventually DOE might be embarrassed enough to bring in regulations.

    As for when those will be enforced?? Answer’s on a postcard please?

    Here’s a thought, why not establish an independent body with say 3 years set-up funding, after that they should be self-financing on the fines.

    Watch the money roll in!

  • independent retailer

    “Here’s a thought, why not establish an independent body with say 3 years set-up funding, after that they should be self-financing on the fines.”


    How about just privatising the whole thing. You could just send round some clamping goons with big yellow chains and padlocks to shut down the factories of people not using enough long life light-bulbs.

    Clearly landfill and energy prices aren’t sufficient motivation. We obviously need more civil servants with clipboards.

  • BG, Foster’s earlier (almost) ‘solo run’ in September 2007 back-fired spectacularly.

    Her ‘minded’ decision to award a major project to a (then) party member was retracted later. It precipitated the early departure of both Paisleys from the Executive; one gone, one about to go.

    This debacle may have been ‘facilitated’ by a degree of ‘collusion’ between investigative journalists and inquisitive bloggers.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the whole process has a liberating effect on civil servants and I think Executive ministers and their decisions will be subjected to far greater democratic scrutiny and exposure than their London and Dublin predecessors. ‘Leaning’ on a media editor is unlikely to be be as effective in the future as it was in the past.

    The combination of money and legal expertise IMO is also a threat to good governance and the Executive may need some assistance from the media and bloggers to curb its anti-democratic potential. I think it’s a great shame when public representatives are fearful of speaking out because of the risk of the financial consequences.

  • Hogan

    Independent retailer

    Either you enforce regulations or you don’t?

    Although given the small retail sector’s fervent resistance to the plas-tax we know where they stand on environmental matters.

    I didn’t suggest privatisation, the motivation would be purely on profit in that instance. Any surplus would go to the public purse in a hybrid model that i outlined.

  • independent retailer

    “Although given the small retail sector’s fervent resistance to the plas-tax we know where they stand on environmental matters.”

    Maybe we know where they stand on additional taxation and paperwork.

    Let’s take the average small start-up. It’s likely that it won’t make a profit in its first two years but during this time it will collect 17.5% of sales in Vat, 33% of salaries in PAYE/NI, another 12.8% of the salaries in employer’s NI. It will pay company registration fees, accountants tax comp fees and 1/2 of any rents will be paid in rates. Because paying £10K in rates for the priveledge of paying £20K in rent isn’t enough or a contribution to local services, it also now gets to pay £7.60 each time a bin is collected and water and sewage fees.

    None of this tax can be off-set against opening year losses – the firm just has to hope that future profits will be enough to recover any shortfall in corporation tax. If the firm invests and investments can’t be written off as they’re incurred money will be paid on “profits” that exist only in the carried forward value of stocks and fixed assets.

    Let firms write off all purchases as expenses, bringing profits closer to cash flow and smoothing national revenues by avoiding the double taxation of charging the vendor for the whole sale whilst forcing the buyer to capitalise the purchase.

    Abolish employers national insurance – there’s nothing green about that tax. Merge PAYE with national insurance for employees.

    Set a single, lower, VAT rate on all purchases, whether medicine, food or ferraris and remove a great swathe of VAT inspection on the administration of mixed-rate firms.

    Treat employment taxes as what they are – an appropriation of the total value added in the business – let firms recover a tax allowance on net losses from other taxes extracted in the year.

    Remove the link between rates and commercial rents and charge a ground rent based on area zoning and some sort of strategic plan for land use.

    Do even a few of these and I reckon most businesses will be delighted to ask customers for 10p towards the price of a plastic bag.

  • The Raven

    Independent Retailer, without sounding glib, we feel your pain. One only has to look at some of the escapees from the corporation tax to see that the playing field is so un-balanced as to be a veritable mountain.

    The additional bin collection charge is despicable and Councils should hang their heads in shame for not fighting with the retailers on that one. On a slightly green note, I am disgusted at how few Councils provide blue bins for retailers – I am also disgusted that given the contribution this could make to decreasing their landfill, they have the temerity to suggest charging for that service too, where it is provided.

    With regard to the plastic bag, just stop providing them. You’d be amazed how many people might remember to bring their own.

    Hogan: did you also know that if you lived in an area that has an AONB, or ASSI, and your local council wants to put a sign up in it, or place a bin in it, EHS will demand that you do an environmental impact assessment?

    But the point I wanted to make was this. There’s a lot said about quangos and the waste of money that they are. On this particular issue, I must disagree. We have 108 MLAs, and one Minister for the Environment. Given the near daily rape of the countryside, and the natural and built environment, that we see on a near-daily basis, I feel its time we got some professional expertise in. Given the performance of the Assembly to date on this matter, I don’t feel that any of them, nor the people they employ are in any way qualified to do this particular job.

    Hogan, your point is a fair one. But it would take the thing to be run like a business. And that just wouldn’t happen.

    By the way…when are we going to do away with vehicle tax? I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of that particular tax, AND see petrol go up 15p a litre if it meant that only those who use more petrol, pay more tax….

  • T.Ruth

    People who serve on quangos should do so on an entirely voluntary basis as a contribution to society. I served for 8 years (around 4 days per month) on a voluntary basis on an important quango. I was annoyed that people in other quangos received payment for work of similar responsibility and commitment. I had to submit at the beginning of each 4 year term to a rigorous application and interview procedure.

    We would find who were really interested in serving the community Volunteers would do a better job and would feel honoured to serve the community.

  • Danny O’Connor

    DUP =Dont Upset Property developers,especially when they are members of your party.
    Arlene is to the environment what Catriona is to schools.
    This is clearly another balls up by a minister who has decided on 11 councils without any clear vision of what exactly they will have to deliver.
    She thinks that she knows what to do ,but,in the meantime she can’t decide whether to be decisive or not.

  • The Raven

    Danny, as long as Larne Borough and all its problems and quite a few of its staff are legislated out of existence, we should be thankful for small mercies.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I don’t for one moment pretend that all is well in Larne -it isn’t,most local councils have their fair share of problems,Ballymena is £30,000,000 in debt,are the ratepayers of Larne going to have to pick up the tab for this.There has been a culture of ineptitude fostered in NI for many years,people were not appointed on merit,and,we are reaping what in many cases ,was sown many years ago.Likewise many politicians were a shoe in because the people voted for the people who waved the flag(of whatever colour) the most.