“Treasury has not got too many estimates right..”

Before today’s UK budget I had noted that economists John Simpson and Richard Ramsey had both been critical of the Northern Ireland administration’s budgetary prowess – and, in particular, the budget projections contained in the 2008-2011 Programme for Government. Now, as the Belfast Telegraph notes, it looks like they’ve been joined by PricewaterhouseCooper’s Philip McDonagh, et al.

Businesses advisors PricewaterhouseCoopers said if there was a little jam today there would be thin gruel tomorrow following the whopping efficiency savings. PwC chief economist Philip McDonagh said the budget was one of three interlocking elements – massive borrowing, deep cuts in public spending growth and an economic recovery of “miraculous proportions”. He warned the Stormont Executive would have to review its spending priorities.

His tax expert colleague Larry Darby said for most taxpayers it would be a neutral or low-impact budget.

But Mr Darby warned: “What will worry tax experts and economists is the high level of optimism that underpins the Chancellor’s borrowings and revised public sector spending plans.

“Treasury has not got too many estimates right in the past couple of years, if they get this wrong, we really will be in trouble.”

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  • The Raven

    Meantime, over at DETI, Arlene promises to “support our private sector, focussing on the provision of practical support and advice as well as implementing training and re-skilling programmes and assistance”

    Actually, I think that means Reg will be bearing the burden, Arlene. Just what HAVE you implemented lately to “support our private sector”…?

    Looked at incentivising retail, have we? Eased the rules governing INI assistance? Skewed the budget in favour of local companies as opposed to FDI? Just wondering….

  • Toby

    Was the Budget not neutral in terms of the Executive’s spending plans over the next two years which suggests that the economic experts don’t really know what they are talking about?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Eased the rules governing INI assistance?’

    Raven, hello again

    My kids are both big Dr Who fans. so am I. Rumours abound about the final David Tennant episode, but try this on for size.

    The Dr, in a final fit of righteous action seals many of the black holes in the universe that have in the past been such a draining influence; they gobble resources up without producing anything of enduring tangibility. The sting in the story line supposedly is that with the black holes sealed, life goes on, and no one notices the difference.

    Question. If the Dr zapped InvestNI out of business tomorrow, what practical difference would the absence of InvestNI make?… And, uh, Who would notice?

    These fuckers, sorry esteemed public servants, like their predecessor IDB and LEDU, have been sucking on the public teat for far too long. I have friends in Europe and the states who have ‘done business’ with these people over the years and a recurring theme in their recounting of these events is not Dr Who…. but Basil Faulty.

    Dylan singing ‘Its all over now baby blue’ has just come on the wireless. Over and out for now

  • But oh well, it has economic growth written at the top apparently so according to the DUP everything is fine and nothing needs rewritten.

  • joeCanuck

    …a little jam today…

    Migod, that brought memories back.
    When I was 7 years old, me Ma was in hospital waiting delivery of trips. We had our main meal of the day, always very filling, prepared by my 13 year old sister who stayed home from school for a few months.
    We were fairly poor and our supper consisted of a thick lump of plain bread. Me Da looked after supper when he came home from work. He would say “You can have butter on your bread or margarine (Echo – yuck) and if you take the margarine you can have jam on top of it, but there’s no way you’re getting butter and jam”

  • joeCanuck

    trips = triplets

  • The Raven

    “Question. If the Dr zapped InvestNI out of business tomorrow, what practical difference would the absence of InvestNI make?… And, uh, Who would notice?”

    I am also a big Dr Who fan. But let’s not go there now. Indeed the answer to your question is “none”, except to those who would stand by the assistance that was given to them, and who’s quotes, I am sure, pepper every scrap of literature that INI produces.

    My point is – and sorry, I really should have clarified – they ARE the statutory business development agency for Northern Ireland. And as such they have a role. You question its existence, I question its *current* relevancy.

  • Pete Baker


    It might be neutral in overall figures [and I’m not yet convinced that it is] but, from what I can tell, the additional monies are ring fenced to be used for specific measures.

    Are the cuts?

  • wild turkey

    ‘trips = triplets ‘


    Thanks for the clarification. I hope you and the trips continue to prosper.

    For a moment I thought your Ma was a participant in the same ‘birthing mothers’ experiment run by Sandoz labs that my mom was caught up in. To this day, the consequences ricochet. Then again, she was assured by Professor Cheney that it was consistent with medical science and also promoted the interests of national security.

    lysergic acid diethylamide

  • Driftwood

    I know a guy in Invest NI. he earns £60,000. As do most of his colleagues. He freely admits they make no difference whatsoever. Same with a guy I know in the NI Tourist Board.
    Their attiude is ‘FFS please don’t tell the NIO’.

    But I know a guy in the NIO, who earns £70,000 a year. As do most of his colleagues. He does nothing. His attitude is ‘Please don’t tell the Assembly’.

    I know a guy in the Assembly, he earns £55,000 a year. not sure what for.Same with all his colleagues. His attitude is ‘please don’t tell the NIO or (god forgive) let the taxpayer find out’.

    So it goes…

  • wild turkey


    thanks for the anecdotal evidence. Of course it will be dismissed, no doubt with the authoritative voice of NISRA to the fore.

    Your observations confirm my experience in the public sector. In general terms, it is a business model/practice that makes Stavka and/or the Roman Curio look like models of efficiency and probity.

    However it is just these people, in receipt of their sinecures for their profound zipper licking services, who will draft the statements you and I will read regarding how any proposed budget cuts from central govt can only exacerbate the endemic poverty of Northern Ireland.

    The priestly classes in any society, modern or ancient, have always been by nature parasites. In Egypt they said we have visions, and policy meetings on, of and about the pyramids, now let the peasants fulfill and glory themselves with the heavy lifting. The comparable classes here admittely come from a rare, if similar pedigree. But history nonetheless demonstrates we are dealing with very voracious and dangerous parasites.

    According to my friends at the local aquarium, even hammerhead sharks have been known to exhibit behaviours of feeling, and on occasion, self awareness. The sharks usually find this experience dis-orienting, confusing and painful. It goes against their natural instincts and genetic imperatives.

    But I can feel their pain.

    I can feel their pain because I piss down the throats of the public sector parasites and hammerheads. And thank god I am too old to give a fuck.

    It would be wrong to say death to this scum. Because, as richly demonstrated in the upper reaches of the governance and the upper reaches of civil service, in Northern Ireland persistently

    The scum also rises.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I am not usually a defender of InvestNI but they have some good people however they are so constrained by the rule book, red tape and fear of failure they cannot do anything.

    Each investment is looked at in isolation not as part of an overall performance. We all know that not every company works and to expect that of InvestNI is frankly ridiculous.

    The change needs to come from government they need to throw out the existing rules and red tape and replace them with ones that ae relevant to the 21st Century recession and credit crunch and allow those who are good to flourish.

    Will it happen? No! it would mean the whole civil service method of doing business would have to change.

  • wild turkey

    ‘I am not usually a defender of InvestNI but they have some good people however they are so constrained by the rule book, red tape and fear of failure they cannot do anything.’

    FD, fair enough. In my late nite rant it was not and is not my intention to bad mouth individuals who work for InvestNI. I agree with your assessment that current rule book needs to be binned and we start ID policy with a blank sheet of paper. A blank sheet that enables imaginative thinking and risk taking. Will it happen? Like fuck. Advancement up to and through the senior ranks of the NI civil service does not exactly encourage or reward accountability, risk taking and thinking out of the box. Evidence? For light comic relief read the testimony of various NI departmental heads and their second tier zipper lickers to various sittings of either the Westminster or Stormont Public Accounts committees over the past few years.

  • daisy

    Slashing consultants’ fees should save a large sum of money. It would certainly give PwC and their ilk something to really moan about.

    I doubt if that’ll be one of their recommendations when the govt inevitably puts out a tender asking for consultants to tell them how to make efficiencies as a result of this budget.

  • joeCanuck

    I have had considerable experience with various consultant companies; usually after one boss or another read a book by Drucker or one of his ilk.
    My total experience is that the consultants tell you want you want to hear and what you know already.
    They are for weak managers lacking confidence to do what needs to be done in case it somehow goes wrong. Then the consultants are blamed for the resultant mess which usually is caused by sabotage by lower echelons whose buy-in wasn’t really sought.
    I even commissioned a painting to hang on the wall of my office – a parody of “The Emperor has no Clothes”. Nobody could figure out what it was all about, otherwise I might have been fired for being a “dinosaur”. But I introduced little changes of my own and my group prospered and I eventually made Manager.

  • Driftwood

    We trained very hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to turn into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.
    (Caius Petronius, Satyricon, AD 66).

  • The Raven

    Well now. We want to execute civil servants and consultants…

    May I suggest a different approach?

    Perhaps organise yourselves around a party who genuinely, willingly, wants public sector reform, and vote for them (that, of course, being to those from this jurisdiction.). Voting for the party your da told you to vote for gets you nowhere.

    Secondly, as I have written before, lobby to have the civil service opened up properly – with “boards” done away with, and open and accountable advertising of posts.

    Thirdly, if you get any of this done, tear up the rule book. Throw the so-called grandstand that is the PAC or equivalent out on its ear. Sack around 40% of the NIAO.

    But I doubt very many will get past being able to implement the first point.

  • Driftwood

    The Conservative and Unionist Party will probably be the next party of government. And George Osborne has clearly signalled public sector reform. So point 1, Raven, is for people in NI and the mainland to vote for them.
    Many decent Catholics should choose to vote for the only genuine non sectarian party here. And after a year of highly emabarrassing gaffes from the Robinsons, Ian Jr, Poots, Storey etc most decent non Catholics should not put these fundamentalist zealouts back in to office.

  • The Raven

    (waits for someone to kick off at the non-sectarian bit and the topic to divert somewhere into the ether…)

    Other than that…yeah!

  • Driftwood

    Feathernesting is probably endemic in the (non-competitive)public sector. Let’s see Cameron and Co in action.
    How about, a 10 year pay freeze (including pensions) for all SENIOR administrative posts throughout the Civil service. If they’re that good, these people will be snapped up by the private sector – yeah, right.
    The fire brigade, police and prison service all get the same pay (and working hours)as an average squaddie. NO overtime.
    No early retirement schemes with pension add ons.
    Hows that for starters?

  • The Raven

    I think we’ve got away from the topic slightly, and frankly, we’re letting the Minister(s) off the hook.

    While I don’t disagree with what you are saying, I still insist that root and branch reform of who gets in and, more importantly, how they climb the tree of advancement is needed. And I will always maintain that the over-staffed and power hungry NIAO needs to be the first thing pared back.

  • Driftwood

    The NIAO undoubtedly does need pared back. But it is 1 of dozens of quangos,and duplication of bureacracy is endemic.
    Stormont itself is a wee pretendy ‘assembly’ where game playing among SF and DUP produces nothing. NOTHING. Westminster is the source of all power here. Mervyn King has more power over peoples lives here than Robinson, McGuinness, Dodds etc.
    My personal preference is for Direct rule from London. Not perfect by any means, but cheaper and more efficient.
    As for the NICS, I agree with you totally. All posts should be made available to general public.
    To hell with NIPSA and their cosy ‘jobs for the boys/girls’ mantra.

  • daisy

    Currently, there is a tender worth £4bn up for grabs over the next 3/4 years for consultants to tell the public sector how to do its job. This is double the amount of the previous framework. Be afraid.