“cutting their own pay and numbers is more for the optics than the effect”

The BBC reports that the Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion, proposed by the NI First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, wearing his East Belfast MLA hat, calling on the independent Assembly Commission “to reduce its running costs in line with the level of reduction faced by Executive Departments.”

The Belfast Telegraph report notes,

On Monday [Peter Robinson] outlined a range of further cost-cutting steps including the voluntary freezing or reducing of ministerial or Assembly member costs and ending the subsidy of Assembly meals. He also said steps should be taken to ensure there was no rapid rise in Assembly staff.

I can think of one Executive Department, in particular, that could do with reducing its “running costs”.

But as Jim Fitzpatrick pointed out, it’s hardly a Tea Party proposal…

It’s popular, in the current climate, for politicians to beat themselves up.

Sinn Fein has shown an almost masochistic streak by arguing that MLAs pay should be cut by 15% but rejecting the proposal that civil service pay should be frozen.

But cutting their own pay and numbers is more for the optics than the effect.

Fewer politicians will not significantly reduce the cost of Northern Ireland’s big government.

But as the cost of our big government is currently borne by English taxpayers and the benefits of it are currently enjoyed by citizens in Northern Ireland, there is no incentive for local politicians to cut there.

That is another key difference with the US where individual states must balance their own books on an annual basis with precious little help from the federal government.

For that reason it’s hard to see a Tea Party movement gaining ground here for, unlike the United States, the majority is strongly in favour of big local government so long as central government continues to foot the bill.