Peter must have logged in…

At a dinner tonight, the First Minister took on the sceptics who doubt that reform of the political institutions would/ would/ might/ be among the efficiencies the Executive should make in response to the recession – even though the UK Budget was broadly neutral in its impact on Northern Ireland this year, thanks to Barnett “consequentials”.”That is one reason why we have suggested that the number and
structure of departments is looked at again. Not just to save money
but also to ensure that government is best organised to deliver for
the public….It has been suggested that a reduction in the number of
government departments could negatively impact our political
settlement by disturbing the balance of parties in Government. I
fundamentally disagree with this analysis. Not only does such an
argument place the interests of political bureaucracy ahead of what
government is meant to do, but it is also fundamentally wrong.”

And on the Alliance Party’s calculations that the SDLP might lose its Executive seat in a smaller Assembly..

“Six government departments would still have all of the same
parties in the Executive and there would actually be an even split
between unionists and nationalists. Again a reduction in the size of
the Assembly and the civil service is needed to ensure funds go to
the projects and services that are most needed.”

OK Peter, you say no effect on Executive balance, that’s the analysis. Now, where’s the action plan? Are you going to wait for the Assembly review report towards the end of the year or do a Gordon and produce your own? Jointly with Martin McGuinness or as a DUP solo?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London