Bleg: What is the issue with money for P&J?

Exciting innovation! The excellent Freakonomics blog occasionally runs a “bleg” defined as:

    A bleg = blog + beg — i.e., using a blog to beg for information.

In that spirit, the following types of comment keeps popping up regarding the devolution of Policing and Justice:

    PSNI is in serious financial trouble at present, if a serious terrorist campaign were to raise its’ head, where would additional funding come from?

    No Government will promise a blank cheque, that is for sure. Posted by New Blue on Sep 13, 2009 @ 10:02 PM

And generally it seems accepted that there is a big issue with money. But to reveal myself as an idiot, um, why?

The PSNI must already have a budget, otherwise police officers wouldn’t get their salaries, stations wouldn’t have their electricity bills and rates and whatever else wouldn’t be paid, training wouldn’t happen. It just must be adminstred somewhere else. Does the money not follow to whoever is in control? And if, for example, a major new campaign kicked off, the central government almost certainly would spend any money neccessary to fight it – exactly a blank check. Why would it play games over jurisdiction and give no further help if powers were devolved? Surely that would be a scandal? I don’t understand this objection but lots of important and serious people keep talking aqbout it, so is anyone able to explain what the problem is, exactly?


Okay so far we have the following explanations

1. Follow my links, and the links after, and watch the videos on the links (Pete)
2. The executive is too incompetent to handle the budget cf ILA et al (New Blue)
3. Fighting a future campaign would require more funds, and central government won’t give them but will if they are in control (Fair deal)

I’m not entirely satisfied with any of them, see comments. Any better ones?

  • Pete Baker


    Start here.

    And follow the links.

  • Pete Baker

    Oh, and play the videos provided.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    It has always looked like the finance ‘controversy’ was a convienent straw-man-arguement which suited the DUP to talk up thus allowing attention to be deflected away from their movement on the issue.

    There was always going to have to be a discussion with the British to ensure sufifcent money was available to deal with the mainly ‘post’ conflict siutation and a mechanism to avoid Norn Iron being left with a massive bill for mainly ‘legacy’ issues. But everybody, inlcuding the British knew this from the start, and given that the transfer of Police and Justice is a key part of British strategy in Norn Iron they can hardly now decide not to provide fair financial mechansims.

  • fair_deal

    “Does the money not follow to whoever is in control? And if, for example, a major new campaign kicked off, the central government almost certainly would spend any money neccessary to fight it”

    False premise. After the initial period of the troubles when the security budget needed increased extra money was not provided from the Treasury rather other NI departments had their budgets cut with a NIO statement blaming the terrorists for the cuts. This is why NI’s infrastructure is in such a poor state the first budget ususally to take a hit was the capital budget.

    With devolution this option isn’t open to the NIO or certainly not as straightforward. It is also the precedent that has local parties nervous about devolving the powers without a proper financial deal ie powers devolved trouble kicks off and Treasury tells them to find it from their own budgets like the NIO used to do.

    The faith shown in the treasury to come up with the cash when needed is also highly questionable if you consider the parsimonious attitude to the Afghanistan campaign that has most likely contributed to dead soldiers.

  • Kensei


    I think you fail to understand how this works. I want a quick and easy idiot proof explanation because if I’m an idiot that isn’t going to do all that, so other people.

  • New Blue


    Firstly, thank you, I’ve never been directly quoted as the reason for a thread on Slugger before.

    As I see it fair_deal has covered the salient points.

    Why would any Government write a blank cheque when the policing of Northern Irland has been devolved to the Assembly?

    The fact that it is devolved means it is up to the folks on the hill to manage the block grant as they see fit.

    The only possible caveat to this is if military support were required, this would come directly from the defence budget.

    Soldiers on the streets of Belfast again anyone?

  • Kensei

    FD, New Blue

    Surely this then remains a problem no matter where P&J is controlled from – Assembly – inadequate budget; NIO – inadequate budget?

    Is the plan then to simply blame the central government if nothing gets done? Political games over real choices?

  • andrew white

    “Why would any Government write a blank cheque when the policing of Northern Irland has been devolved to the Assembly?”

    why dont the conservatives say they will adequately funding policing if they form the next government, and why wont that be acceptable to the UUP?

  • neil

    Sorry for the repost, but what about Newton’s take on the situation regarding the PSNI (link below)? While this is not directly related to the PSNI funding an anti terrorist campaign, but shows their attitude regarding where money is to be found.

    In fact, even though they have the worst record in the UK (a staggering 90% of burglars never even meeting a police officer), and according to todays tele regularly submit paperwork which looks like it were produced by an eleven year old child in terms of punctuation and grammar, they show total inflexibility regarding saving money, especially where wages are concerned.

    Question: Why are we paying a very, very good salary to people doing a crap job (by their own admission), and allowing them to continue budgeting pay increases for themselves?

    Acting Chief Constable Judith Gillespie has told the Policing Board that the PSNI is “right down to the wire in terms of what we can cut into”.

    There are too many good points in that article, but I’ll pick out a few:

    The CC earns 184k p.a. (with a potential further 100k bonus package).

    The PSNI has budgeted for a 2.5% increase for officers and 4% for civilian staff, yet inflation is at 0%.

    10,000 applicants for 440 posts, so no problem with recruitment in fact it would seem (IMO) that the renumeration is too high.

    A 3.2 per cent across the board cut would save £17m, protect jobs and services and leave everyone no worse off than they were in 2007.

    Being a cop is well known to be an option for many people with very few qualifications (a couple of GCSEs being sufficient – possibly less) and a way for people who cannot write or speak English to earn the same or more than someone who has studied for years to gain a degree. I know this to be true as a friend who didn’t do so well at school ended up signing up. Prior to that the only jobs he’d been able to get as a salesman in electricals.

    As an afterthought I’d ask any Unionist posters have they started to re-evaluate their opinions regarding the organisation which was so often described by Unionists here as one of the most efficient professional Police forces anywhere?

  • fair_deal

    “Surely this then remains a problem no matter where P&J is controlled from…Political games over real choices?”

    Sorry this is not a ball weighing contest but practical politics.

    The budget could be a problem if faced with an increased terrorist campaign but the choice is a) Treasury asked to find £100m extra from its UK budget of £470bn or b) Devolved administration asked to find £100m from its budget of £9.5bn. In neither scenario will it be an easy win to get the resources but one is in a much better position to find it than the other.

    Also IIRC correctly the Treasury does have an emergency reserve though it is loathe to ever use it.

    There will be no shortage of real choices in the next few years for the devolved administration – water charges, capital investment, equal pay claims that is even before you consider the likely double digit cuts the Tories will bring in if/when they get in. It is not a case of the Executive being in a financial nirvana and seeking to protect it by not avoiding P&J. It’ll have plenty of hard choices to make already.

  • New Blue


    P&J will be devolved, or at very least the structure for devolution will be in place, during the life of the current Government.

    I ask you again, what is the first minister doing to ensure that there is a financial guarantee to provide the policing that Northern Ireland deserves?

    I cannot belive you continue to berate an insignificant member of another party when your own first minster could give you the answers.

    Unless of course, he doesn’t have any.

  • Kensei


    I am not denying the choices need mad eon the budget. But

    1. Serious campaign starts up. People die.
    2. Assembly announces some money to fight it but says it needs more.
    3. UK Government says no?

    Really? You could also ask if people would be more willing to help if they better saw the cost to say, their child’s education because of it?

  • fair_deal


    “re-evaluate their opinions”

    Minor problem that was the Unionist description of the RUC (one I never shared when it came to ordinary crime) not the PSNI produced by the Patten report. I don’t think you’ll find many Unionists ever saying the Patten report was a good idea.

  • andrew white

    new blue, it is your party leader , or regional administrator, whatever Regs title is, who wants to delay devolving P+J because he fears the Conservatives wont provide the necessary funding.

    Why dont the Conservatives put his mind to rest and say they will?

  • Kensei


    Pay cuts are terrible for morale. But a cut in the overall pay increase budget and linking any increase to performance for a few years might well help and save a bit of money.

    I’d guess there is also scope to reduce paperwork, or at leats make it more efficent via better IT – which could have an upfront cost but long term saving.

  • New Blue


    the majority of our ministers (God bless their little cotton socks) have enough trouble working out how to balance the existing budget.

    The idea of devolving P&J as a mangement practice without the cost of P&J eating into the block grant for a period that allows our elected representatives to get their heads around what the exact need to finance P&J is going to be is not only prudent but, in mo opinion, vital.

    So an agreement is brokered with Westminster that P&J is funded from central treasury for 5 years, with clauses to allow for additional need if the situation here were to go down the pan.

    Why is the first minister not telling us that this is the strategy he is following and that we will ensure that sufficient funding will always be guaranteed for P&J.

    Of course, if he comes out and says anything like this now, I want full credit for it.

  • Scaramoosh

    We all know that the logical answer rests with a merger with the Garda Síochána! Think of the cost savings; the economies of scale; the shared intelligence.

  • New Blue


    Now this is getting silly

    Ask Peter what guarantees he is getting to finance P&J – he should still be first minister after the Conservatives get elected, is he scared to ask directly, if so I’m sure we could get someone to ask on his behalf.

    Leadership Andrew, that’s what a first minister needs to show.

  • fair_deal

    “2. Assembly announces some money to fight it but says it needs more.”

    A far from easy task.

    “3. UK Government says no? Really?”

    Devolved administrations are saying they need more and the Treasury says No sort it out yourselves. Take health for example people can die from inadequate investment in it, our minister of health certainly thinks he needs more. Soldiers are dying in Afghanistan because of inadequate investment in kit. I do not share your faith of deaths being a trump card in a public spending debate.

    But here is the key why take the chance? Why cross our fingers and hope we catch the Treasury on a good day if we need extra resources? Instead do consider accepting that the Unionist caution on finances is actually good sense and practical not a delaying tactic being done and thus we seek the money up front or the cast-iron guarantees of the money (if needed) in place.

  • Kensei

    New Blue

    You are arguing on competence then? I don’t see why any party should eb arguing they are too incompetent to handle the budget.


    It may not be easy for the Assembly to find a bit of money, but basically given the circumstances they will because they’ll have no choice.

    Nevermind the deaths, the headlines in the Mail wouldn’t be enough to get most governments running scared – look what happened over the compensation for soldiers. Afganistan is miles away and able to be put out of mind in a way the North has never been.

    I’m not saying getting it in writing is a bad idea. Just you are unlikely to get it all in wiritng without a specific threat. But I think that you should not be assuming the executive just runs things the way the NIO does, and there is no room for change or efficiencies. And I think that taking responsibility in itself is a good thing.

  • fair_deal

    Remeber under a new Tory government it will have political capital to spend so it can take some media hits from the Mail that a flailing government can’t. Plus an economic downturn and massive public deficit are pretty good excuses as things go.

  • fin

    firstly soldiers dying for want of decent kit is not due to a lack of finance, any issue of Private Eye wll give you horror stories of massive MoD cockups regarding budgets, warships delayed for years and twice the budget, Chinocks gathering dust, the distribution of MoD kit was privatised a few years ago and it can no longer account for its stock, than theres the privatised payroll which is a disaster, recruitment was privatised and dropout rates are through the roof, training is next to be privatised, need I go on.

    However the MoD can’t do what people like New Blue are trying to do here, the MoD can’t say can I have more cash cos’ we might have another war. It is silly that unionisms last (we hope) arguement for not devolving P&J is that something might happen in the future, hey, its a given something will happen in the future, nobody knows what though.

    So is there a sensible arguement out their that doesn’t include a need to put finance in place now for the possibility of disaster in the future.

    For example New Blue, is only the PSNI that needs money earmarked for the possibility of future events, or is this a new Tory policy for are areas of the public sector.

  • New Blue


    Education, National Stadium, Irish Langauge Act.

    If our devolved ministers (or the 2 parties who run the show) can’t make decisions on simple things like this due to political brinkmanship, do you really believe that they are ready to handle the P&J budget?

    I have posted an amicable soultion above, which allows for a P&J minister to ‘manage’ P&J without placing additional ‘whataboutery’ on the offices of the first and deputy first ministers.

  • andrew white

    Education, National Stadium, Irish Langauge Act.

    so new blue tell us how the tories would solve these matters, given that the UUP/SDLP coalition fell apart a number of times

  • New Blue


    Nice to know I am held in such high regarded by such a key player.

    Unfortunately, all I can give you is my personal opinion, I do not write UUP or Conservative policy.

    However, If you or the first minister are looking for ideas on how to do your jobs, why not pick up the phone and ask the UUP or the Conservatives yourselves, I am sure they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

    If you are really stuck, I have a four-year old niece who could probably show you where your elbow differs from your backside.

    That is if that is not too advanced.

  • neil

    not pick up the phone and ask the UUP

    Jesus wept, rofl, the irony of it all. The UUP are all but dead. In each and every successive election for the past 5 years and more you have lost votes, now why in the name of good holy fuck would anyone approach the UUs for guidance on anything other than how to wind up a party?

    Your usual tripe New Blue, all about the fantastic UUs and their mates in Westminster, and as I’ve pointed out before – the Ulster Unionist party, if they continue to perform as they have done will continue to be an increasingly unimportant bit player, until such times as they cease to exist.

    How about waiting until the UUs actually do well in an election before fucking bragging and engaging in verbal masturbation over your fantasy of a winning UU party. If in any doubt about your party’s dismal performance please see:

    Just in case you’ve lost all grasp on reality, the DUP and SF are the biggets show in town, and are likely to remain as such if the best the UUs can manage are wee undead Reg, some tit who hasn’t the wit to clear the debris off his emails when issuing a denial, other shining examples are the campaign to have kids in GAA tops banned from fundraising in Tescos, gracefully pointing out the BBC showing a GAA match ‘in a foreign country’ as part of the all Ireland agenda, and under no circumstances could we have a ‘non-Unionist’ minister for P&J. Yeah, you guys are really very progressive. Progressing up your own arsehole so far as to not realise your party’s all but dead in the water, and there isn’t a damn thing the tories can do about it.

  • fair_deal

    New Blue

    “Education, National Stadium, Irish Langauge Act.”

    On two of those decisions have been taken – there isn’t going to be a single national stadium and there isn’t going to be an ILA. Unhappiness with a decision isn’t the same as no decision.

  • New Blue

    ‘Just in case you’ve lost all grasp on reality, the DUP and SF are the biggets show in town’


    I know it was probably a typo, but how right you are!

    As for your entertaining tirade, I was only offering Andrew the help he seemed to be looking for.

    If you want I will save up now and buy you a sense of humour for Christmas.

    Submit word = together – hmmmm…

  • joeCanuck

    cast-iron guarantees

    You should know that there is no such thing, Fair Deal. No Government is beholden to previous Government’s decisions. Even legislation can be overwritten.
    The guys on the hill are just going to have to suck it and see.
    Westminster will not allow another “war” here to go unchallenged.

    Hehe; submit word is “together”

  • fair_deal


    “No Government is beholden to previous Government’s decisions.”

    I’m well aware of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and that is why any guarantees need to be sought and got from the Tories too.

  • fin

    I read Kensi’s blog with interest, and looked forward to reading at least one plausible answer to the question, we’re now on the second page and to be honest noone has given a reason for P&J not to be devolved that is in anyway believeable, has anyone got a answer to the question or is the thread doomed to be a bunfight between the UUP and DUP

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    New Blue,

    Any deal on police will need political will to get it through and at the moment it looks as if that exists with the main players British Govt, DUP and SF – it will be extermely easy for any of the UUP/Tories/TUV to point to problems and difficulties and scenarios that will allow them to jibber jabber about wanting the transfer of Police but not being happy that the time/finances are right.

    There muse be a suspicion, given how dangerously close the UUP are to a disappearing act (particulalry at Westminster) and their last utterance (which caused massive confusion and was condemned by all pro agreeement parties) that Wee Reggie will find the tempatation to upstage the DUP too difficult to withstand.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, Fair Deal, but as Samuel Goldwyn is reported to have said “Verbal Contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on”.

  • fair_deal


    I’m not looking a verbal contract

  • andrew white

    Unfortunately, all I can give you is my personal opinion, I do not write UUP or Conservative policy….

    you critised the DUP on these issues but dont even know what your own partys policies are.. please find out

  • New Blue


    I have not said anywhere that I am againt the devolution of policing and justice, I am not sure that I have seen anyone from either the UUP or the Conservative party say that either.

    I have highlighted my personal concerns that we ensure that sufficient funding is in place so that we are not put in a position where health or housing has to go short to pay for policing.

    If a stable model were offered, which protected the non P&J block grant from becoming ‘at risk’, a model that allowed contingency funding for a sudden increased demand for policing hours and allowed for the budget to be, in isolation, reconsidered on an annual basis, then I would be more comfortable.

    Policing in Northern Ireland needs special financial dispensations because were are not fully aware of what the ‘peacetime’ police force need to be fully fit for purpose, that is before we even consider the possible requirements if a serious sustained terrorist threat were to appear.

    I am not writing here just to position how good I think or don’t think any particualr party is, policing is an important issue to all of us and I want to make sure that our policing and Justice have the resources to do the job that we would expect.

    We have a position to ensure that our P&J is well resourced, and the first minister should be ensuring that those negotiations are managed in a way that ensures that it is.

  • New Blue


    Did you always get other people to do your homework for you?

    And while we are at it; have you answered ANY of my questions yet?

  • andrew white

    New Blue how can you criticize any party when you dont even know what your own partys position is?

  • New Blue


    I am very aware of my partys’ position, as are you, as should be your party leader.

    Now any chance on answering any of my questions, or would you like to infer that I am a sectarian and a racist again?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    New Blue,

    ” I am not sure that I have seen anyone from either the UUP or the Conservative party say that either.”

    Well none of us are sure and judging by the last statement by the UUP on the subject – the one that gave birth to condementation from ALL pro agreement parties (including the DUP) – perhaps not even themselves.

    In the absence of any clarity from the (party or is it parties?) many of us will continue to have justifaiable doubts about their pro-agreement credentials and will watch the unsure-footed-diminutive-Reggie and his increasingly diminutuve party – with some interest – as he opportunistically dances in and out of the anti and pro agreement camps.

  • neil

    And while we are at it; have you answered ANY of my questions yet?

    LOL, that’s a cracker, pot – kettle – black. Sure if someone makes points you disagree with you mack a crack about your sense of humour.

    Here, again, are the points I see as pertinent regarding your musings, see if you can come up with something resembling a response.

    1) Seriously, why on earth would you suggest that the DUP would approach the ucuNF for advice, given the fact that the DUP have washed the floor with ye election after election with the UUs losing votes in every consecutive election for over 5 years?
    2) How do you square your fantasy that this crowd are non-sectarian and inclusive with the following incidents: the complaints regarding kids wearing GAA tops in a supermarket; the preposterous suggestion that the BBC showing a GAA match as part of an all Ireland agenda, including the jibe ‘foreign country’ – obviously the National front outreach office needs a bit of work; the attempt at scare mongering over the (crazy, crazy) suggestion that some one of the 40% of the population here which is Nationalist might be justice minister (as I pointed out to you before, you did hear they elected a coloured person in America? mad eh?); and for good measure the complaints that the BBC religion correspondent might not be a Christian (shock horror, fuck his degree from Oxford, he doesn’t think the same way as the backwoods men of the UUs – heretic that he is).

    Two simple questions, let’s hear something resembling a response. Or is it that you are actually ok with the latent sectarianism? And is it that you’re so deluded that you think the UUs losing votes is reason for others to seek their advice?

    Oh, and bear in mind I’m a nationalist and wouldn’t vote for the DUP or the National Front, however at least the DUP are up front, not so duplicitous as to pretend to be somehow inclusive while week after week displaying their latent sectarian tendencies.

  • andrew white

    so let me get this right. You say you are not sectarian but support your party leader who says no “non-unionist” should hold the post of policing minister.

    Is that correct?

  • New Blue


    1. Go back over the thread, read it and then you might just catch on to the reason why the post that seemed to incite you was made.

    2. I am personally completely commited to working toward a shared future that respects all cultures and creeds, this should be clear if you have ever read anything I have posted.

    I am also enough of a democrat to understand that individuals may have opinions that I do not agree with, even individuals in my own party, if we all thought the same then there would be no need for politics.

    As a nationalist are you saying that you agree with every comment or action made by other nationalists? If you are active in a political party, do you agree with every comment and every action of every member of your party?

    If you answered yes to any of the above then I would love to hear how you managed to reach this nirvana.

  • andrew white

    f you are active in a political party, do you agree with every comment and every action of every member of your party?

    New blue this isnt about any old member of a party, this is about your party leader and his views, and therefore the partys, that no non-unionists can hold the policing ministry post.

    if you dont agree with your party and leader why are you in it?

  • fin

    This is spiraling more and more into a uup v dup bunfight, I’d like to pick up on Kensei’s answers 2) and 3)

    How different is P&J going to be to a ministry such as Health, the uup’s Michael McGimpsey this has had to deal with ‘Swine Flu’ hardly forseen, and the cost of drugs I believe weighted in around £55million, has Michael McGimpsey done his job, should the Health Ministry be handed back to the NIO?

    It is a tad concerning New Blue that your arguement would imply an expectation for the UUP’s only Minister to fail in his job, unforeseen circumstances, and an additional huge cost, whats your opinion new blue, if your arguement on P&J is correct, did Michael just get lucky, is the Health Minister surviving because the DUP and SF are guiding him, do you have confidence in Michael to manage these unforeseen events?

  • Big Maggie


    “some tit who hasn’t the wit to clear the debris off his emails when issuing a denial”

    I believe I missed this. Sounds choice :^)

    Can you give me a hint as to who it was?

  • Big Maggie

    Just an eensie-teensie-weensie hint?

    I won’t breathe a word to a soul.