Robinson: “This will test the enthusiasm of the Executive for making savings in local government.”

As Brian has already noted, Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, has set out his views on the desirability of a “single educational system” hereAs, previously, did the NI Secretary of State.  We’ll wait to see if the deputy First Minister is still “all for it”.

But in his speech Peter Robinson also tackled some of Sinn Féin’s recent economic proposals.

From the DUP leader’s speech

Another red herring thrown across the debate to deflect attention from the issue is that savings could instead be made through setting up the Education and Skills Authority or by Reforming local government but that my party had rejected these alternatives.

But whatever we do, or do not do, on these issues, it is not an argument for doing nothing in relation to the size of government. However, rather than deploying the tactics of my political opponents, let me address these issues head on.

I remain committed to local government reform but the financial reality is that to have proceeded on the basis proposed would have cost £118 million pounds over the next three years to achieve savings over 25 years of £130 million.

When Edwin Poots brought forward his reform proposals he identified the potential of over £400 million of savings.  However, this was predicated on the introduction of a Single Waste Authority – a concept which Sinn Fein in particular opposed.  Without that element the savings would only be £130 million over a period of one quarter of a century.  To access these savings it would be necessary to spend £118 million – up front – in the first three years while the Tory cuts would be biting most deeply in Northern Ireland.   In the present fiscal environment that is simply money that is not available to the Executive and the profile of the cost and savings would never justify taking such a step now.   Yet, that does not mean that the existing councils cannot collaborate to achieve significant efficiencies and create savings in advance of the structural reorganisation of local government.  In the meantime we can also press ahead with many of the governance arrangements which command widespread support. 

I have asked Edwin to bring a paper back to the Executive on this issue in the coming weeks.  This will test the enthusiasm of the Executive for making savings in local government.

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  • Drumlin Rock

    “that does not mean that the existing councils cannot collaborate to achieve significant efficiencies”
    But Edwin just abolished the bodies and staff who were carrying out that collaboration and finding real savings.

  • Pete Baker



    But savings through collaboration on a Single Waste Authority has already been identified.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Pete, part of RPA was to reduce the local councils but increase their services, the SWA would strip one of the few functions remaining, and was introduced quite late in the process it seems, I’m not sure what the proposals are and would wonder what would be involved in delivering PWCs projected savings.

  • DC

    In terms of local government reform what can’t be measured in Robinson’s savings are the more intangible economic benefits of having a better performing local government system. One where decisions are being made and taken closer to the area of the impact.

    Basically, savings could have been made if more powers were vested locally as the decision-making system would have been faster than the one operated up in Stormont. I’m thinking that is the main driving factor behind the introduction of RPA, more effective and efficient local government, than the heavily regulated and community-bloc politics at Stormont.

    Based on the performance of Stormont to date more powers should be taken off it and into other arenas with better decision making structures. Proper Council reform could have provided that.

  • Local Government Officer

    And they still can, DC, even without binding structures. At least four of the “clusters” are moving ahead on shared services across a whole range of services. We’re pushing to have services which should have been coming from central government to continue to remain on the agenda. We’re also calling for more because they were only giving us the crumbs off the table as it was. And the costs and savings identified? Guesstimates, and pretty bad ones at that. It would cost far more and delivered a lot less than £400m over 25 years, most of those savings coming into play only after about 10 years.

    Local government here does much more than people give it credit for, and from the smallest to the largest, it can continue to do so and indeed grow. Why? Because while we have problems, and we don’t always get everything right, we’re far removed from the political nonsense and deadlock of Stormont.

    It’s not that “many of the transition committees no longer meet as they consider that they can carry out no useful function towards re-organisation” as Poots says. It’s that we’ve cracked on as far as we can, and beyond the remit of the so-called timetable that was given to us by the DOE.

  • Cynic

    This entire system is a complete shambles. We are a small area with a population of just 1.5m. We only need a unitary system of Government. Abolish the councils per se and save millions that an be quickly realised.

    But that wont happen because it would annoy so many members of the political class in every party. The political sweeties of council seats, fact finding missions abroad, dinners, free tickets for events, etc, etc have to be given out after all

  • aquifer

    One waste authority is right and could save millions in fines from europe.

    Or does Peter see the fines coming and need a ready response?

  • Local Government Officer

    Well I’m still waiting to see overseas trips happen for us. Mind you I’ve only been there four years.

    I’m interested to hear of the “millions” you reckon could be saved. Before you tell me, I’m just going to tell you that the main costs of MOST councils, big or small, in Northern Ireland is waste disposal – the cost of which, of course, comes back to the person putting the crap in the bin in the first place; and leisure facilities, which do more than just provide squash courts and swimming pools. Oh and are affordable – unlike the private sector ones.

    I’m also still waiting for a free ticket for anything. Maybe you have a long list of tickets which have been given out that cost “millions”. Or is that without actually having pretty much of a clue about your local council, it’s just easier to point a finger and claim “millions” have been wasted?

  • barnshee

    Keep watching –there is less money coming from London somthing will have to give ;:-

    Rates increases ?
    Water Charges?
    Reduced funds for public servant salaries?
    The shit is in the air and will eventualy fly watch the politicos try to avoid it

  • barnshee

    “the more intangible economic benefit”

    I want tangible benefits –mostly I want my biggest household bill -my rates bill REDUCED

    I see no reason to fund salaries at a level the recipients could not command in the real world..