After austerity, will Northern Ireland grasp its limited opportunities?

I have to say Brian has it about right when he says OFMdFM cannot afford to continue its newly minted habit of belligerency inside Stormont Castle in its response to the coming demands of the new UK administration. One thing the budget did point out was the degree to which Westminster rather than Stormont sets out the broader lines of social policy.

Cameron and Osborne have flagged their intention to shift the emphasis for social action from the state to the people. Despite the predominant pattern of post war UK politics (and the comment in the press) this is not an inherently right wing view. But it will ask very serious questions of a post St Andrews settlement, built in large measure on a massive and consistent spend of public money to in order to underwrite and cement political stability in Northern Ireland.

So what are the real opportunities? A very upbeat analysis in the Irish Examiner today seizes on the most tangible: ie the promise of increase in foreign direct investment if corporation tax tates are lowered to bring Northern Ireland into line with the low rates of the Republic.

But it remains to be seen whether a political class whose fortunes have waxed on the political maxim of ‘rights and entitlements’ as opposed to ‘responsibilities’ has the stomach to swallow the cutting of domestic spending in the short term in order to create that competitive advantage in the longer term.

Given how long it took them to disagree on the reform of local government (or rather to come to the agreement not to reform it at all, despite all their previous public posturing on the issue), don’t hold your breath for too long. Despite its completely different complexion, this power sharing government is beginning to develop the same musty odour as the once unchallengeable administrations of Stormont’s old ‘House of Commons’.

But given the astringent actions of the Republic’s government is now being followed by that of the UK, how much longer can Northern Ireland’s politicians shirk their responsibilities to wider society.

, , ,

  • Johnny Boy

    The perpetual waste of time and money that is standard practise in Stromont, must mean there is huge savings to be made with simple application of common sense…

    Not going to happen then I suppose.

  • Greenflag

    ‘But it remains to be seen whether a political class whose fortunes have waxed on the political maxim of ‘rights and entitlements’ as opposed to ‘responsibilities’ has the stomach to swallow the cutting of domestic spending in the short term in order to create that competitive advantage in the longer term.’

    To be ‘fair’ to the political class in Northern Ireland even for the ‘wonst’ it is perhaps understandable that what is called longer term competitive advantage by Whitehall may be just another white elephant concocted by Tory politicians who still have faith in the ‘private sectors’ deep commitment to produce full employment at a livable wage for the bottom half of the UK population .

    ‘But given the astringent actions of the Republic’s government is now being followed by that of the UK, how much longer can Northern Ireland’s politicians shirk their responsibilities to wider society.’

    Until their bellybuttons are squeezed out through their rear ends by such a tightening of belts that has never been seen since the time of Jack Spratt or the Jarrow marches or until that 6 billion pound subvention is cut by two thirds . BUt long before either of those imrpobabilities the government of Mr Cameron will be a distant memory of a brave but another failed attempt .

  • fin

    guessing no-one watched the budget debate in the Commons then, once the crack of PMQ was over the chamber quickly reduced to about 12 MPs, this to debate the most significant peacetime budget ever, Stormont and its MLAs are no less value for money than Westminister and its MPs.

    I watched it in particular to count the SDLP MPs in attendence, it was zero, Alliance, DUP and Herman also zero.

    The most honest line from the election was from Adams, active absentionists verus lazy ones

  • slug

    Corp tax is already down to 20% for most firms in NI, and down to 24% for the largest-the gap is already narrowed a lot between ROI and UK.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Fin
    You can’t have been looking very hard. Sammy Wilson’s response was on ‘Today in Parliament’ last night so he must have been in the House at some stage.

  • Glencoppagagh

    ‘down to 24% for the largest’ after four years but at the expense of capital allowances so it could mean a higher effective rate for some.

  • Glencoppagagh

    It’s a pity Osborne didn’t actually cut public sector pay. That would have been a very positive move for NI.

  • Glencoppagagh

    cont.
    and it really would have thrown down the gauntlet to Stormont: cut pay or cut services, it’s your choice.

  • Mick Fealty

    There is a limitation even to Westminster powers in these fiscal matters. But they are setting a tone that our conflicted parliamentary body seems spectacularly unqualified to meet.

    And fin, talk of abstentionism is wholly beside the point here. SF is on point duty within OFMdFM on this one on behalf of nationalism, not their erstwhile rivals the SDLP.

  • Brian Walker

    People need to get clear what ‘s devolved and what’s not. It’s quite possible for the Executive to cut public sector pay, though I’m sure they won’t dare. Welfare and pensions on the other hand are nor devolved. What’s needed now is clarity from Westminster over the Barnett formula and corporation tax. They seem to be reopening the door on corporation tax that Varney slammed shut. But I just don’t ‘see how any government could give NI such a competitive advantage. However we wait and see between now and the autumn. What the Executive need to do now is to be bold over the areas over which they have control. It would be great think they will but I’m not holding my breath.

  • aquifer

    Welfare is devloved but we currently operate parity.
    So is Health, are we as sick as the budget suggests?
    Or do we just like building hospitals we cannot staff?

    Public sector wages should be cut to bring them closer to those not enjoyed by the less secure private sector.