How will the Executive pay for £1.2 Billion of cuts?

Today’s report for NICVA by the Economic Research Institute, Northern Ireland and Oxford Economics (or rather their local operation, which was formerly known as Regional Forecasts) not only makes for grim reading, it also begs the question, is the Northern Irish public ready for cuts in its  governmental services of the scale likely to be sent down the line when George Osborne’s first Comprehensive Spending Review hits in October this year?

I would quibble with the authors’ apparent certainty that the Coalition’s deflationary fiscal policy is necessary, or at least on the scale being talked about. Second quarter growth in the UK was a phenomenal 1.1%, suggesting that Mr Osborne’s claims that ‘things are worse than we thought’ (or as Chris put it, kitchen sinking the bad news) appears to justify former chancellor Alisdair Darling suggestion that “the coalition’s economic policy is not inevitable – it’s a choice they’ve made”.

But for the good folks on the hill of Stormont that’s purely academic. Northern Ireland’s political vulnerability to the changed climate at Westminster/Whitehall is the excess of public spending over taxes raised in Northern Ireland of between £7-9 Billion a year.

Chicken feed in terms of the UK economy maybe, but given the Coalition is looking for cuts of 25% in non ring-fenced Whitehall departments special pleading will not help Northern Ireland avoid a painful shedding of its considerable fiscal load.

How painful? Well the report estimates £1.2 Billion between now and 2015/6. NI budgets have doubled since 2000, and spending over the last five years has risen by £1 Billion. Our spending boom is over. Cold reality even if not sinking in yet, will certainly begin sometime after the Chancellor delivers his first CSR in late October.

Add to this, something like £300, 000 of the annual spend which is currently unfunded. £200k is the subsidy paid to NI Water in lieu of fresh water and sewerage charges. The Minister is committed to finding a solution to that body’s governance problems, but it is not clear that he will agree to shipping it off the public balance sheet.

So what about the cuts? The report outlines a tension between current account spending (mostly about keeping people happy today) and capital investment (mostly about expanding the horizons of tomorrow):

It would be a choice for the Executive to protect the capital programme by accepting larger cuts in current expenditure (but not vice versa) though the practical politics of this would be exceptionally difficult since it would further exacerbate job losses in the public sector.

It is our view that totally protecting large spending programmes in the face of deep cuts to the overall block is simply not feasible. Both health and education will need to bear some of the burden of cuts if the Executive is to maintain a meaningful presence in other spending areas. The present Investment Strategy (PDF) planned by the Executive is unsustainable if the reductions in capital spending in Great Britain projected in the Budget are carried over through the Barnett formula to NI. [emphasis added]

They go on to advise that unless some kind of careful planning (with level heads) at the political level (ie, the Executive) takes place, which makes use of the complex reporting mechanisms delivered them by the Civil Service, there will be trouble in the medium to long term:

The scale and severity of the cuts could easily lead to panic and ‘bad choices’ during the process, or lead to delays in taking action which will only increase the likelihood of panic later in the process. The need for clear heads and evidenced consideration of the choices ahead is imperative to minimise the potential damage to the NI economy and its people.

Yet the authors anticipate that the temptation to go the easy route will prove too much. In particular, the Unions have already declared against job and wages cuts. Yet, as it notes, “…the idea that recruitment freezes are a ‘victimless’ way of reducing headcounts and thus costs is also incorrect as this creates a large pool of youth unemployed who might other wise have joined the public service.”
In particular, and I suspect this was one of NICVA’s core concerns in commissioning this report, that in the face of such blunt, and unconsidered ultimatums, Permanent Secretaries will be tempted to preserve their core departemental funding and recommend instead the slashing of external costs: including that large slice of cash that buys in value-for-money services from the voluntary sector…
All Ministers face tough decisions, regardless of their political stripe. The report six principles as a guide, of which the shift from outputs to inputs may be the most helpful. It suggests that Ministers ask the following:
  • What is this services / activity doing?
  • Do we need / want this outcome?
  • Is it doing it as efficiently as it could be?
  • What alternatives for delivering the outcomes are there, assuming we do want the outcome?
  • Have all other similar spending areas been considered in a similar way?

But there are two major problems. Despite the simplicity of the plan to cut, even experienced Thatcherite Ministers have found it tough to cut growth sustainably within the public machine. Our guys have the added problem of being in cabinet with people from other parties they suspect (sometimes correctly) of using budgetary rounds to gain a political  advantage over them.

And then, as we are beginning to sense in the NI Water story, Ministers (and MLAs) at times appear to have little to no awareness of what actually goes on inside their own departments. And they can be overly reliant upon advice from senior civil servants some of whom are less interested in effecting efficiency savings than keeping their personnel in line.

And remember, £1.2 Billion is just the start. Darling is right. The coalition at Westminister is not cutting spending just because there’s a recession on stupid. It’s doing it because it believes it is the right thing to do. Northern Ireland of the Peace Process era was feather bedded to get the peace to hold. This is just the first of many deflationary shocks to the spending regime.

From here on in, we are going to be increasingly in deciding what we spend or don’t spend. So we have to trust that our politicians will rise to the challenge. As the report suggests in its short summary, perhaps:

…new delivery models may emerge, new entities may be created to deliver or support public services, pilot schemes that have proved their cost effectiveness may be rolled out wider, functions with a clear economic benefit or a proven track record in supporting the most vulnerable are likely to find an increased or expanded role may result. Even the process of looking within departments and functions at spending, processes and outcomes will undoubtedly bring benefits and savings.

Yes, perhaps. But in order to do that, our politicians will have apply themselves to a level of detail that little in their public careers have prepared them for. As the famous quote Yes, Minister goes, “a career in politics is no preparation for government”. And they must also find a new way of speaking that allows them to tell the public the bad news, and well as just handing out the goodie bags…

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  • DC

    Salaries – it’s all about the salaries of public sector workers in managerial positions and above – work from the very top down.

    I’m thinking a 30% reduction say 6% over 5 years of the quite better off and of course a ‘Big Society’ approach to salaries of senior management.

    C’mon chaps where is your own charitable side?

    If such people complain highlight the youth unemployed, the more modern job seekers who are well qualified and able to more for less.

    So salaries, and yes a reduction in punitive legislation, MLAs, solicitors, lawyers, court fees to boot.

    And an opening up of PSNI recruitment to drive down costs and more bespoke positions created as a result. A multi-tier police service might be more appropriate for NI like the policing model used in Spain?

  • Glencoppagagh

    DC
    The best short-term solution is to reduce all public sector salaries, not just in the civil service. Police, doctors, teachers etc are all paid more than is necessary to attract qualified people. Of course the proportionate reductions should fall most heavily on the higher paid.
    And lets put an end to £1m a year legal-aid junkies.

  • DC

    I would have slightly more empathy with police and doctors and public sector workers who do not have large bureaucracies on their side and access to hierarchical management structures.

    If you are a police officer you go out and do your job as a person on the street or in the car 1-2-1 if you like; however, if you are a Chief Executive you are able to delegate tasks via the bureacratic hierarchy.

    Ideally, in terms of NI Civil Service, more delegation to junior staff should happen and a better focus on career development would mean lower grade staff could be taken on and developed and promoted based on actual performance as witnessed by ‘superiors’.

    Rather than employing managers on the basis of an interview and paper-based exercises then realising over the year or two that they aren’t up to the job and can’t be removed easily on performance grounds. (As performance appraisals are pretty poor and not that effective in the NICS.)

  • DC

    Just to add – this approach obviously saves money as you develop staff from the bottom up (which is cheaper).

  • just sayin’

    I think salaries will inevitably have to come into the equation and our public services will need to look at paying what is necessary in the labour market rather than playing as a team apart.

    Going for the better paid is popular but there are not enough of them to really make a huge difference.

    Its also worth thinking on about the ‘lower paid’. To be frank, if we are going to look at pay in the context of the overall labour market, its the lower ends that are most out of line. Remember we have one trade union proudly boasting that the recent equal pay deal in NICS has resulted in Admin Assistants (THE basic entry grade staff) being paid £22k. Simply not sustainable.

    As for recruitments freezes not being a victimless tactic – true (ish).

    But neither is deferring spending reductions. Its worse. It simply means that we blow the dosh and leave our kids to pay for it. No thanks! Our mess, we sort it out.

  • DC

    I am supportive of the lower paid being on £15k-£16k – that 22k figure you highlight must be top of the scale?

    I am supportive because all equality is relative and big pay spikes to senior management is not helpful in maintaining a sense of fairness and cohesion amongst the workforce and society at large. So closer pay ranges are better and if average pay to get by in life in Britain is around £21k why should it be acceptable for others to fall back to £9-12k again in the public sector here?

    Besides, entry level staff could be properly motivated by a Civil Service that stood up for them and said you are paid well for what you do, as an employer we realise and appreciate that it is the right thing to do and the NICS is a good place to work – a unique place. A strong selling point.

    In return for that investment at entry level, employee respect towards the organisation should grow particularly if it is sold in that way. The outcome being an increase in commitment and integrity stemming from trust and being looked afer properly from the start.

    Rather than being given snidey treatment and pulling out comparisons of the minimum wage in the private sector for part-time bitty admin work – which is not something decent employers should be striving for!

  • AlanMaskey

    Just sack them. Let the Orange State pay for itself. Spongers as Harold Wilson called them. No facilities unless you can pay for them.

    DC:Most coppers are pen pushers. The days of Z cars are over.

  • slug

    Privatise NI Water, Belfast Port, and Translink. Spend proceeds on infrastructure – a tram system for belfast, qulaity rail links to airports, and a proper inter-city service to Londonderry/Derry and Dublin. Cut the size of the civil service.
    Cut corp tax to 10% for non retail services.

  • DC

    But some still step out of police cars and take bullets in the head in the process.

  • Mick Fealty

    Starting from the top down is fine, but you are only going to get significant savings when you start hitting the lower grades.

    Okay, now how do you explain that to: The Unions; two, your constituents?

    Honestly, that’s the hill the politicians will have to climb. If they can’t they’re more likely to cut what’s easiest rather than what’s best to go.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alan, if you think you can play the old Green Card without consequences, then perhaps you underestimate the degree to which the state is holding up jobs across the piste.

    Of course, paying down the £9 Million subvention would be good for nationalism since it would close the gap between North and South.

    But in the meantime, I suspect, nationalist working class communities are likely to pay a much higher price relative to the less well organised (and less well funded) unionist working class communities.

  • slug

    The other asset the executive could sell off – to pay for infrstructure spend – is things like the Maze which could be used for private sector housing or indeed whatever the market values it best for.

  • Mick Fealty

    Is property is the best asset to float off just now?

  • DC

    The Unions have big responsibility on this one – whether they want to be irresponsible and play to sentiment using old left/right debates around the economy – or instead they can enter into talks based on reason and rationale, a rationale of Britain being broke. It’s up to them.

    Simply, the public sector Unions have to realise that both they and banking sector share something in common – both have run out of other people’s money!

    But, I have share passion with the Unions’ views on the bankers in that the financial products used in the financial market were at fault for bringing the system down, yet the CEOs there were able to take their bonuses based on the projections of the system working properly – i.e. that it was sustainable and based on proper mathematical foundations of risk / profit.

    That wasn’t the case. Fred Goodwin gets his pension based on boom-time contracts while society and the public sector pays for the bust that followed. It’s kind of like me selling dodgy Cola drinks making massive profit over the year and then poisoning people as a result of long term drinking of the cola product. Except I clear off with the big profit and let the NHS pick up the health bill!

    To square this, in my view, certain workers in the financial services sector should have had their bank accounts frozen, assets seized and shares given to government at a proportionate amount so as to claw back money at source – and in the right sector. Bonuses were paid on the basis that such financial products worked as they were once designed to do.

    There should have been a government enacted freezing of assets and property and shares under the auspices of a ‘financial product recall’ and done in part to plug the hole in the financial services sector balance sheets – along with the taxes taken off the public as well. A compromise. This would make the Unions and constituents more pliable to calls of reasoned cuts.

  • AlanMaskey

    Mick: One of the very many the North has is that all of the major Unionist and Nationalist parties have outdated economic policies. This is derived from the gerrymandered form of the State. TYhe Orangies in the shipyards etc needed big British government contracts to keep afloat. As Clydeside etc felt the pinch, the only thing to do Lagan side was to beg and plead special case. This form a group of people who thought themsleves special because of their religion and their skilled tradesmen status.
    The Nationalist side is no better. Sinn Fein’s roots are in the H Block fracas not in class agitation. The SDLP was an amalgamam of mini personal fiefdoms. So populism, not pragmatism rules.

    Before we shed tears for down trodden nationalists, let us spare a thought for English people in palces like Huddersfield, Hartlepoole and other places that were once great. Why should they be behind the queue of the Teddy Headers?

    Let the pain bite. Get rid of the dross, of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. No more tax subsidies for dossers.

  • slug

    You can certainly plan to do so , and base your projections on this plan.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘No facilities unless you can pay for them.’

    Good idea. We can begin with ‘the Arts’. Why should we subsidise an elitist organisation (allegedly) like the Ulster Orchestra? If classical music folk want classical music, then the Ulster Orchestra should run as a business, bums on seats etc. The rock music industry (in the main) operates on this understanding. You’re only as employable as the sales of your last record. Why different for ‘highbrow’ arts? Or ‘community’ arts?

    Why stop at the orchestra? Do we really need to be funding Orangefest? The St.Patrick’s Day carnival? If people want these symbols of ‘culture’, let them fund it from their own pockets. It isn’t government’s responsibility to prop up ‘culture’. Cultural production needs to be alive, and self-financing, otherwise it all becomes a little too dipped in aspic to have any relevance to anyone, other than (in a Northern Ireland context) for reasons of sticking ‘our’ culture to ‘them’.

    Ditto sport. If you can’t get people through turnstiles, to fund your sporting activity, whatever they might be, then too bad. Sell the ground for housing. Or grazing cattle.

  • slug

    Horrible.

  • Glencoppagagh

    DC
    I don’t disagree much with these points but cutting public sector pay across the board would be a much more quick and effective solution than haggling over cuts in services.
    It also has the benefit of reducing the relative attraction of public sector employment.

  • Glencoppagagh

    So you’re that rare beast: a free-market Irish republican?

  • Mick Fealty

    One very good reason William is that this constitutes a high grade cultural resource that markets across the world routinely fail to support. They do better in the US, but then that is also a country that’s got good very exploiting the (state subsidised) cultural excellence of others (UK, Ireland, France).

    It would not be top of my list of things to push out when there are other activities the market might support without raising insuperable quality/equality issues.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair enough. But I think, if we are considering this matter from a politician’s POV, they need a maximal list of things they can action relatively quickly. Then make decent qualitative choices that they can front up to their voters. Or is that expecting turkey’s to vote for Christmas?

  • Glencoppagagh

    “Fred Goodwin gets his pension based on boom-time contracts while society and the public sector pays for the bust that followed.”

    Net UK public sector borrowing in 2009/10 £143.7bn
    Net UK public sector borrowing in 2009/10 excluding financial interventions £154.6bn

    Source: ONS (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/psf0710.pdf)

  • AlanMaskey

    Gents: Go and have a look in the mirror. There is a small British cake and very many “British” mouths wanting a bite out of that cake. The British and Irish cows can only produce so much milk and cannot allow everyone to suckle. Some must also work, as maggie Thatcher famously intoned, to Scottish Prods I believe.

    So, go get a f-g job. Stop scrounging. Notihng political about that. It is just growing up. Not everyone can be on the Peace gravy train. Some of us must work to subsidise you lot.

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting. A Republican David Vance can do business with!

  • slug

    I think you take say a 5 year view on privatisations-you then can choose the best time to sell.

    Things like the Belfast International Airport were sold off – at a disgracefully low price making overnight muliti-millionaires of the managament buyout team who promptly sold it on. The key leson is to make sure there is an open bid for the assets.

    I’ve just studied the document you point to more carefully. Its a very good piece of work but it ignores that NI has a lot of state-owned assets that were sold off in other parts of the UK. Perhaps we should sell these-not to pay for civil service salaries but to invest in infrastructure and low business tax (both of which pay a return eventually).

  • William Markfelt

    I hear what you’re saying, Mick, but I’ve never bought into that argument, simply because ‘culture’ is simply an ill-defined word.

    We support the Ulster Orchestra. We need to give it ‘x’ every year in order for it to survive. Spread that sum across ‘z’ employees and ‘z’ customers and you can quantify the cost to the taxpayer.

    So why is that ‘culture’ when the local home bakery isn’t? Isn’t making specific types of bread, with unique local taste ‘cultural’? Surely baking bread (or making cheese) is part of our culture too? Does the baker get subsidies to survive? Not usually. But if he hits bad times and thinks a wee Arts Council grant will tide him over, will he get a grant? No. Yet we can also quantify ‘x’ employees against ‘z’ feet through the bakery door to establish a figure of what he’s worth.

    These are just different modes of cultural production, yet we take wholly different apporaches to the two. But I need bread and cheese rather more than I need the Ulster Orchestra scratching away at the works of dead central Europeans, most of it regarded highly because ‘it’s Mozart, innit?’ rather than ‘it’s a cracking good tune’. (Sometimes it’s both, sometimes it’s hackwork).

    I don’t buy into the notion that the Ulster Orchestra is ‘important’. It’s a few people parping on tube or scratching horsehair on catgut. All very pleasant, but essential? I don’t think so. Others will obviously disagree, but why should I subsidise their night out? Shouldn’t they, if they want to hear an orchestra, be paying £150 a seat to ensure the Ulster Orchestra are profitable? I’m not looking for them to subsidise my attendance at a jazz gig. And why should I expect that? The repeated performance of ‘the canon’? Where’s the point, the sense, in that? A repertoire that never alters, and is confined to a few ‘classics’ doesn’t have much point in the context of cultural ‘production’. If we’re serious about ‘production’, shouldn’t the orchestras be supporting new composers and new works? (leaving aside the idea that ‘the world premiere’ of these tuneless trainwrecks of music is also often code for ‘final performance’)

    I suppose, locally, the argument is that jazz bands are part-timers (no less ‘professional’ for that) and they do it for the love of it. Compare that to the Ulster Orchestra, most of whom have pupils in the evening/ Surely that makes them part-timers, too? (And less professional, if the entire brass section’s presence in Morrisons during the interval is to be taken to be a study in professionalism).

    The complete cutting off of arts related grants would not kill of the arts, simply force a realignment of what constitutes art, and a professional vs amateur debate.

    I won’t say I was taught by Frank Ormsby. It’s rather more accurate to say I was in the class he took. (And, as I recall, once had a rather heated argument with him regarding the use and spelling of a certain word. I said ‘fete’, he said ‘feis’).

    In later life I came to know him (and Padraig Fiach) as occasional bar conversationalists, by which time Ormsby was one of Ireland’s most respected poetry figures, and by which time I had a rather more adult appreciation of his work. A part-time poet, paid for by ‘the day job’ in his role as an educator of the Master Race, lol.

    No less ‘amateurish’ in his poetic work for not, at that point at least, being the recipient of taxpayers’ largesse for his cultural production. His art arrived and survived without grant aid. All cultural production should be subject to the same market forces.

    (And, Frank, if you’re reading, it was ‘fete’, not ‘feis’)

  • Regardless of whether you think it works as a policy – panic selling assets in a weak financial market will guarantee you get a poor price and someone else will make a cool profit off any upswing. A quick sale now may seem like good free-market business, but only if governments are supposed to not look for value-for-money.
    I’d imagine something like the following scenario will play out:
    While some form of PPP mechanism is sought to make up the deficit in infrastructure, the proposed spend on roads will be the budgets that will inevitably take the big hit since it easiest to sell. This will mean superficially bigger cuts as well as there is a return on infrastructural spend via income and VAT paid back to the government by contractors. Off a £10m spend on roads a certain proportion (am not sure, but say 20% or £2m, will end up back in the government coffers via tax etc).
    This will drive down costs in construction as work dries up further, making a race to the bottom in wages and a rise in unemployment.
    As wages dip, say two years into a period of minimal spending on infrastructure, across the board public service pay cuts will be introduced so that the ‘..pain is spread around a bit better…’.
    That’s actually a brief summary of what has happened in the Republic over the last couple of years. If the coalition individualise the tax versus spend balance sheet for Wales, Scotland, NI etc, they will no doubt apply some similar medicine to what happened in the Republic.

  • daisy

    There’s another area that’s ripe for taxing – the RIR’s redundancy package as negotiated by Paisley – they receive a monthly payment tax free (as well as the tax free lump sum they received as part of the same package). That was around 3 years ago iirc. Not sure how many people it accounts for, but it’ll take billions from the coffers in the longterm.

    Why should they continue to receive special treatment when other public sector workers are facing cuts to their redundancy packages?

  • Greenflag

    DC ,

    ‘Simply, the public sector Unions have to realise that both they and banking sector share something in common – both have run out of other people’s money!

    Not just both -throw in the Churches and the politicians and the legal and insurance fraternities and you will ‘discover’ that there are a lot of ‘fatties’ out there making good livings on OPM (other people’s money ) and their hopes for the ‘after life’ .

    The people in the middle and at the bottom of the financial hierarchy simply have to stop giving these OPM addicts money .Fresh manure always attracts more flies . Give them nothing and when you are finished giving them nothing give them more nothing 😉

  • As regards the wagw/salary suggestions I’d point out, that as the report highlights, the NI Executive’s flexibility on those is limited as much are driven from national agreements. Thus it is not the easy cash cow as many seem to think

  • Cynic

    “much are driven from national agreements”

    Time to tear those up then?

    Sorry Mick but my conclusion is that

    1 ou=r politicians and

    2 NICS

    are totally and utterly incapable of managing this.

    I forecast that they will fail to do so and the Executive will collapse as a result. From their sectarian perspectives its better to be on the outside peeing in where there are difficult decision to take, otherwise they might lose votes and some of the sheep might begin to question the quality of those they are electing.

    even if they could agree, the NI Civil Service is bloated and outdated – far worse that its UK or Irish counterpart. I doubt it has the skills to deliver, so it will suit if the politicians carry the can for failure and collapse

  • DC

    Cynic

    Well I tend to agree with much of that sentiment, but Peter Robinson did push in reform of the public sector by outsourcing NICS HR to Capita, which is really about using private-sector minded approaches to human resource distribution and organisational structures. Making public sector structures comparable to ones that operate and develop in the private sector.

    Ultimately, the effectiveness of this rests in stopping silo building and fiefdoms as HRConnect will likely be tasked to spot mismanagement of resources which when in-house would have fallen pray to NICS hierarchies – the more senior the position the more authority there is in demanding staff. Whether more staffing is really necessary or not – as every policy is a priority depending on whose baby it is – the higher the grade of course the more priority thus more skewing of resources!

    And this is where the effectiveness comes from – in being able to spot this and the benefits then combine with the efficiencies and savings made through the prevention of mismanagement of public resources. So it is not just in the outsourcing concept itself in terms of Capita staffing and running of HR payments to staff, but reform of culture and behaviours which when in-house and run via the public sector might not be the most productive for today’s fiscally straitened times.

    So, well done the NI Executive for bringing in that level of reform in as it really isn’t easily done.

  • DC

    Should of course be *prey.

  • Glencoppagagh

    I don’t think there’s an obligation to follow national pay rates. It has simply become the custom and the public sector has come to expect it.

  • DC

    Some may be national – but I doubt the vast majority are in the NICS???

    The DFP controls wages so this is the best lever it has particularly as it can set payments from public sector contracts which are then replicated in other public sector orgs here – the ones that operate and use analogous contracts. The knock on effect is control over wages affecting close to 66% of the working population in the jurisdiction called NI. BUT – of course the DFP minister doesn’t want to take very difficult decisions such as regressively tweaking contracts of NICS managers down to lower amounts because of HIS CONSTITUENTS!

    No doubt senior management and professional managers above grade 7 may have some other arrangement but regardless they should be reigned in too.

    In terms of tax, if I am right, the higher level of tax band at 20% was raised from 32k to 37k and that means entry level DPs in the civil service enjoy the benefit of this for a number of years meaning more cash in their pockets, whereas before it would have kicked in directly upon promotion at the start of the 32k salary.

  • Glencoppagh/DC

    “I don’t think there’s an obligation to follow national pay rates.”
    “Some may be national – but I doubt the vast majority are in the NICS???”

    What the report says

    “Nevertheless, there are formidable difficulties in curtailing public sector pay at a regional level since most legally binding pay agreements are at a national level”

    This would imply it is a substantial barrier to this option.

    Cynic

    “Time to tear those up then?”

    Simple solutions aren’t always easily achieved with recent court rulings making it more difficult to achieve eg recent ruling re changes to pensions. Legally the initiative on changing national agreements lies at Westminster. Francis Maude has raised the possibility of regionalisation of pay but no firm proposals have been developed. It appears to be a phase 2 idea if further cuts are deemed necessary.

    It also potentially opens up a debate around the principle of parity within the UK and one that ahs been to the overall benefit of Northern Ireland.

  • DC

    I am confused as I thought the pay agreements were regional – except those agreed by PCS Union and HM Gov in terms of Inland Revenue Offices and other non-devolved matters.

    Like for instance the equal pay backpay was linked to NICS payscales and not national ones and agreed by NIPSA, if we deploy national ones perhaps we as a city should be pushing for London rates 😉

  • just sayin’

    …. not the case in many areas. NICS ain’t national, local govt, non-teaching education, NIHE, non-teaching FE ….

    NHS is though.

    Local govt is a good example of what could be done. A very flexible national conditions framework with lots of local flexibility (including pay). The issue is using that type of flexibility well. Well used in yorks/humber. west midlands – but not NI for some reason?

  • just sayin’

    the recent ruling on pensions with PCS was a temporary blip. Labour simply did it the wrong way. It will be done the right way soon I am sure.

  • lover not a fighter

    If the executive has 1.2 billion to pay for the cuts why do they have to make the cuts.

    Is this the kind of Economic management that has brought us to this !

  • Pigeon Toes

    Very good!!

  • Cynic

    How many fewer Staff did NICS employ as a result?

  • Cynic

    Yesh ….let’s do it on a sectarian basis

  • DC

    500 – but as I say it isn’t about the transfer in itself but more so making sure silos aren’t built or extended and also creating better interaction between public and private sector in terms of sharing project management skills – amongst many other skillsets of private sector.

    All of these things shift beyond the 500 employees that were diverted elsewhere around the NICS as a result of outsourcing.

    Capita staff are likely going through a hell of a time as I’m sure civil servants must curse away quite frequently at them in revenge for losing their own management tools to a private company of all things!

    However, good work Robinson and Co – this was a big innovative project and something like this even in Britain / England would certainly cause fur to fly in the leftist ranks of Labour.

  • Cynic

    Labour were cack handed – perhaps deliberately.

    In the current circumstances there is an urgent need to renegotiate contracts so there should first be a renegotiation and when that fails (and it will in NI as the Unions will never agree) give staff a choice – ‘economic circumstances have forced upon us two options – make mass redundancies or a pay cut’. Let’s see the vote then.

  • Cynic

    I just want to make it clear that I genuinely dont have any animosity towards NICS. I am sorry for the staff but we are all in this position and must make cuts. I want to see them done in as rational a basis as possible but done they must be and I don’t think the Executive are capable of doing it…… and that is the fundamental weakness we face. It is not fit to govern. Indeed, aside from Sammy, Ministers have been invisible since this crisis became clear

  • daisy

    sectarian, how?

  • aquifer

    ‘recruitment freezes are a ‘victimless’ way of reducing headcounts’

    But as you say the silent victims are the people not recruited.

    Also we become the victims of the wrong people stuck in the wrong job and doing it badly. Maybe all NICS jobs should be time limited contracts with lots of training built in, to upskill both the NICS and the private sector.

    The other victims of a bloated NICS headcount and high salary level are the private contractors, especially small local ones, who are the first to suffer cuts and who have to make do with second grade staff.