McNarry tells Wilson you cannot fill a £400 million black hole with savings you’re not making..

I argued that the crisis in Unionism is essentially a competitive one, and today David McNarry demonstrates presses on the heels of Sammy Wilson over the problems of, to borrow the words of Mr Munchau a ‘pre-crisis’ budget in a post crisis world… Months of denial under the stewardship of Nigel Dodds has left Sammy Wilson with a huge mountain to climb, or perhaps more appropriately a huge fiscal hole to fill… But with what? The Health budget? Social development? Dare he?

“The current efficiency targets set in the last budget are already not being met. Evidence from official sources indicates that for the period covering 2008/09 47.7% of the planned savings are marked at being “at significant risk.” The figure for 2010/11 is worse, with 51.6% of these savings assessed as being at significant risk. This is a trend already showing in 2008/09 – when £273 million was to have been saved only £174 million was actually saved – a shortfall of £99 million on the savings target. So now we have a mini black hole appearing in the middle of Sammy’s rescue package for the even bigger black hole.”

“What we now have since Sammy admitted to a £400 million black hole, in one of the biggest ministerial climb-downs in recent history, is that once again Sammy is doing too little too late. With new black holes appearing all over the place, it is clear Sammy’s efficiencies will not work – in fact, they are failing already.”

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  • John East Belfast

    Scrap Invest NI – it serves no useful purpose and it alone would account for about £300m

  • Johnny Depp

    Sammy scissor-hands has a ring to it…

  • Thereyouarenow

    Is Sammy the patsy in this farce !

  • Slasher McNarry strikes again!

  • privateer

    If the Northern Irish executive needs to make a 3% efficiency saving then the best and simplest way to do so would be a straightforward across the board 3% public pay-cut.

    Better still a 5% pay-cut and use the rest to cut business rates.

    Our public subvention is inflating salaries and robbing the private sector of the profitability it needs for investment.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s simple Maths Sammy, no?

    Privateer. That would be one way of doing it. But who makes up the bulk of the electorate in NI?

    Very popular in the south, but then… that’s a different country… 😉

  • andrew white

    well it can only get worse if the conservatives get elected another 10% cut of the block grant – round £900 million. How is Slasher McNarry going to sort that one out.t

  • The Raven

    “a straightforward across the board 3% public pay-cut…Better still a 5% pay-cut and use the rest to cut business rates.”

    Levied on whom? “Senior” Civil Servants? Civil Servants in general? That’ll help an AO. Council workers included? Do we hit a binman with two kids with that? Or just “senior management”, of which you might be talking 5 people out of 200.

    Do we include teachers? At £125k per annum, I have no bother hitting GPs with that, but shall we include nurses? Or just “administrators”, because they are fair game? Social housing? Not much to cut there, since the house sales dried up. NIHE isn’t a huge agency any more. Sooooooo….?

    “But who makes up the bulk of the electorate in NI?”

    Dunno, but there’s just under 53,000 unemployed people at the moment. Oh, and add 10% of the total population (of which a fair whack will be of working age) on disability allowances. Hmm. Where DO we begin with these swingeing cuts…?

    Business rates, I hear? There’s a much more fundamental review of these needed than just small nicks and cuts here and there. Rates are one of the biggest disincentives to starting a business here. We just can no longer continue to say “Oh, starting an independent retail business? That’ll be five grand please, before you even take thruppence at the til”. That 5% cut just seems trollish.

    Soooooo…..?

  • privateer

    “Levied on whom?”

    Everyone Raven.

    If the differentials have been established by collective bargaining then they’re just and should remain.

    Public servants in Northern Ireland earn more and have more job security than the private sector and do less work.

    That’s unjust.

    Agree with you on rates. Scrap them all and if anything add another sales tax. If the revenues were matched it shouldn’t be inflationary. If you want variety in your town centres – including firms that might serve a local need (if just to provide a few jobs) but which don’t attract massive amounts of revenue then why add what’s an effective 50% VAT rate (unreclaimable) to rents.

    Hold up. There’s a thought. Why not make rates reclaimable in your VAT return? A effective 48% VAT rate on real and nominal rents (that’s what it is in Belfast folks – 48% of NAV). Then the very profitable could continue to pay them.

  • andrew white

    Do we hit a binman with two kids with that?

    why not? many people in the private sector get by on the minimum wage, how much does a bin man earn i guarantee its a bit more than £5.72 an hour

  • privateer

    “Hold up. There’s a thought. Why not make rates reclaimable in your VAT return? A effective 48% VAT rate on real and nominal rents (that’s what it is in Belfast folks – 48% of NAV). Then the very profitable could continue to pay them.”

    Actually scratch that. It’s bollocks. Too late in the day. All firms would recover the same VAT and if we don’t change our VAT system the zero rated (grocers and the like) couldn’t get it back anyway.

    Back to plan A. Scrap the things.

  • privateer

    Of course one advantage of a 3% general pay cut would be that every department would bear its share.

    It’s a coalition after all.

    How about a cross-the-border road toll for all those southerners coming to our shops. We pay a toll every time we go to Dublin – and if you’re coming from Belfast that’s a but like paying a toll every time you travel south.

    £3 entry fee for using Conor’s roads.

  • The Raven

    “Public servants in Northern Ireland earn more and have more job security than the private sector and do less work.”

    You of course mean SOME public servants….? Are you sure about the less work? Have you spent a day in a public servant’s role? I haven’t, but I work with many of them – and they *do* do a day’s work. Don’t confuse the tea-drinking civil servant classes in, say Orchard House or Netherleigh with every single public servant.

    Andrew, many people in the bottom rungs of the public sector ARE on minimum wage, and if they are above it, it’s not by much. Many of them are on 51 week contracts.

    You want to make savings, have a look at their employers pension contributions. There are other cuts that could be made.

    Here’s a piece from the Beeb in 2006. How much of this was actually implemented?

    Why do we have Land & Property Services, when the Councils ALL say they could collect rates themselves? Why do we still have DVLNI, when road tax itself is a ridiculous notion? MOT centres? Workplace 2010?

    I think there are a lot of generalities discussed about this on this site. I also agree that a very thorny issue needs to be grabbed and dealt with, but that the outcome could be a lot different from what people think it should be. I need hardly remind anyone that whether it be Brit minister or First Minister, ALL have at some point alluded to making these cuts, and yet none have. Because throwing another 10,000 people on the dole achieves nothing.

    I’m reminded of a movie called Dave, starring Kevin Kline. You may remember a scene? Check it out here. Watch it from 4:48.

  • andrew white

    Andrew, many people in the bottom rungs of the public sector ARE on minimum wage, and if they are above it, it’s not by much. Many of them are on 51 week contracts………..

    the majority are not. cut the pay of those 15,000 or higher. if they dont like it they can get a job in the real world

  • The Raven

    And at what point did the public sector fall outside of the real world? Generalities, Andrew, generalities.

    I suppose I could lump every member of the banking fraternity into the chosen bonussed few, that led us to our current economic predicament…?

  • andrew white

    the public sector gets paid out of our budget that budget is being cut, it has to pay its way

  • privateer

    Ok. Do Andrew’s thing. Good ideas Raven but yours end jobs while mine just spread a relatively thin slice shared pain evenly and immediately.

    While I’m at it – if you want to give the general economy a hand (and not just the private economy),

    1. Use schools as business support facilities. Keep people’s kids from 8:30 – 5:30 every day – doing sports and their homework. There’s a whole potential industry there in low cost wrap-around childcare and development.

    2. Abolish these “special closure days”. How does a school justify taking a day of someone’s holidays and interrupting everyone elses working efficiency for “training” when it’s closed a quarter of the year?

    3. Charge GP’s for every sick note they right. They’re supposed to be keeping patients well and they’re bonussed for doing so under their new funding regime so dock them £100 for each sicky! Tell you what – just staple the cheque to the sick note. That’s my favourite.

    4. Set up some kind of NI Land Bank for compulsory purchase of private undeveloped land where the developer lacks the financial resources or will to develop them. The state of the North East Quarter is a disgrace.

    5. Scrap town councils and replace them with area boards made up of the MLA’s for that borough (you might need to revisit the RPA’s completely unimaginative boundaries for that). That’d remove the disconnect between councils and Stormont – bring the power sharing culture from Stormont into all councils and save about £7 million in councillor fees (based on North Down’s £300K for last year). Make the Chief executives Mayors (and directly elect them) and use MLA’s for oversight. You get more joined up government and you make Stormont more accessible. The New North Down & Strangford Council has 12 MLA’s. Belfast City Council has 24. Why do we need to pay councillors too?

    Good movie Raven.

    I was sceptical about the merging of departments but one advantage would be that there would be fewer ministers fighting their corner.

    My experience of inefficiency is that often just stopping doing the stuff that adds no value, not only saves money but lets you get on with ensuring the execution of the stuff you should be doing.

  • privateer

    “I suppose I could lump every member of the banking fraternity into the chosen bonussed few, that led us to our current economic predicament…?”

    Agreed. Banking wages are a disgrace and a market failure – they’re a sign of the absent landlordism of our shareholding classes. What’s need are shareholding mutuals that elect their own Warren Buffett types to sit on boards and keep an eye on things. Anonymously managed unit trusts are useless.

    Christ.I think self-employment ha turned me into a Tory.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Raven,

    The rest of us in the private sector are being asked to take pay cuts (and bonus cuts), unpaid leave, reduced hours, reductions in pension funds, and we’re even asked in some cases to work up some time without being paid – if we’re not being made redundant. The blow of this is cushioned to some extent by falling costs in fuel/heating/electricity and mortgage payments.

    Why should the public sector be immune from the cuts that the private sector are having to take, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of the reductions in the costs of living ?

    Why should I take a reduction in pay, only to see the tax paid to shore up the salaries of public sector workers ?

    And don’t get me started on doctors. I have no problem with them being paid a premium living for the important work they do, but let’s get real. They were awarded a massive pay increase by Labour in exchange for no hard productivity or service improvements at all. Dentists are even worse; they were awarded a raise and, in exchange, they’ve closed their lists. There is only one dentist accepting NHS patients in the entire Northern Health Board area. GPs and dentists do not even do a 35 hour week. They get grumpy when they have to do house calls and if you dare to suggest that they should do a couple of hours on a Saturday morning they laugh in your face. I’d slap a 10% cut on those bastards in particular and call it good.

  • The Raven

    Actually, privateer, I don’t want to end anyone’s job at all. As I said, I do a lot of work with the public sector, mainly councils, and I respect the work that the workers do. It’s when the elected representatives get in the way that the inefficiencies arrive. I like every one of your ideas, except the GP one.

    I had a member of staff once hand me a sickline for cancer treatment, and another after a miscarriage.

    Andrew, I take it that that is the sum total of your argument, then?

  • Comrade Stalin

    privateer:

    3. Charge GP’s for every sick note they right. They’re supposed to be keeping patients well and they’re bonussed for doing so under their new funding regime so dock them £100 for each sicky! Tell you what – just staple the cheque to the sick note. That’s my favourite.

    If you think your employees are taking too much time off sick, you’re entitled to sack them or at least withhold pay. If you don’t then what are you complaining about ? This sicknote thing really is overblown.

  • privateer

    If you think your employees are taking too much time off sick, you’re entitled to sack them or at least withhold pay. If you don’t then what are you complaining about ? This sick-note thing really is overblown.

    To be fair they aren’t generally but a couple have been with persistent, patterned absences (just before holidays or always on a Tuesday) but the introduction of back to work interviews, strict adherence to a maximum number of paid days and also insistence that the whole sick note period be observed (ie if you’re signed off two weeks you stay off two weeks even if you think you feel better – as you’re uninsured for a start) – seems to help. But all that kind of puts paid to any old fashioned ideas of a paternal family business.

    A bit like being obliged to fire your over ’65’s.
    More an emotional pain than a financial penalty.

  • The Raven

    “Why should I take a reduction in pay, only to see the tax paid to shore up the salaries of public sector workers ?”

    You shouldn’t. I feel your pain too, big lad! But no one has asked ANY part of the public sector to take those cuts. No part of it at all. Nobody has sat down to start working on a public sector compact as happened in the South (IIRC?) Perhaps it’s time to ask for it to happen.

    But to reiterate:
    We don’t need a few thousand more on the dole queue.
    The public sector has helped to keep retail and many other parts of the private going through a lot of current turmoil.
    There are many, many other savings to be made before you get even close to getting rid of a single public sector worker.

    As I alluded to before: this is a process which should have started twenty years ago, a process which (now more than ever) needs to be managed carefully. You vote for these elected reps – remember that next time one of them “undertakes” to “slash” the public sector.

  • andrew white

    There are many, many other savings to be made before you get even close to getting rid of a single public sector worker. ………

    im talking about an across the board pay cut not job loses

    either a pay cut now or job loses one of the two

  • The Raven

    Honestly, Andrew, you just seem to smack of jealousy more than anything else…. 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    We don’t need a few thousand more on the dole queue.

    I do not want to see more people on the dole queue, but paying people to sit in civil service offices and stare at the wall is worse. If we are going to spend money to try to keep the economy going through the recession, I’d like it spent on the national infrastructure, on something that will benefit us when the recession ends. Improvements to roads, rail links, communications, etc. Office workers can be used, for example, within the police service to get trained police officers out doing police work.

  • The Raven

    “but paying people to sit in civil service offices and stare at the wall is worse”

    I’m genuinely interested to hear examples of this.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m genuinely interested to hear examples of this.

    You’ll need to ask a civil servant. The ones that I know all concede that you could get rid of 1/3rd of the staff and nobody would notice any difference.

    Then you’ve the quangos. Community Safety Partnerships. NICCY. Playboard. There are hundreds of little organizations that do nothing other than produce reports for politicians, who never read them.

    This is New Labour at work. Government spending in Northern Ireland has doubled in the past ten years. What improvements have you seen ? Sure, there have been much needed road and water upgrades. But this kind of infrastructure spending as a whole is about 10% of the total NI government budget.

  • amanfromMars

    There is never ever a black hole in finances whenever you can so easily fill the void with quantitatively eased funds …….. for who the hell cares or would know there is any difference.

    Or would you like to confuse the situation and deny yourself the facility, which is so easily abused and used by others?

  • barnshee

    “Do we hit a binman with two kids with that? Or just “senior management”, of which you might be talking 5 people out of 200.”

    Er- no take Coleraine council (please please)
    15 staff on more than 40K — 8 on more than 50K

    50% of the workforce on more than the NI average wage

    Room for swinging cuts I would have thought especially If the politicans could get their act together sufficiently to complete the amalgamation supposeedly coming for the last what? 10 years

  • fin

    bet Ian Og hopes noone remembers his little speech on hearts&minds; concerning his victories in gaining funding for ulster-scots, loyalist bands, OO rate rebates, etc

    Of course Ian Og is a true unionist, many on slugger claim the South would never be able to take on an ecomonic basketcase like NI, if the books start to balance and in turn its hurting the natives both parts of the island might start making eyes at each other

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Ha ha…it’s so funny to think that Sammy Wilson is the NI Finance Minister.

  • GavBelfast

    Well the First Minister himself said Sammy was arguably the best-qualified Economy Minister that we’ve ever had – I think on the basis that he used to be an Economics teacher.

    So there you go.

  • elvis parker

    Andrew White:
    ‘well it can only get worse if the conservatives get elected another 10% cut of the block grant – round £900 million.’
    AS opposed to Labour’s plans for 9.4%?
    How are the DUP going to react to having to implement these changes? Are they going to blame the evil Brits? Or push the economically illerate line that all we need to do is cut the number of MLAs and Depts.
    Be honest cut budgets without blaming people and increase bills for water? (shame they hadnt had the cojones and foresight to do the water bills when people had money)