Northern Ireland Water to hand £20 Million back to the department

Confirmed by Liam Mullholland on Nolan just now… John Simpson on the same show doesn’t think it is relevant to the current problems. Rather he suggests,  “they are showing they can do what they need to do with less money”… That begs a question better answered when we find out just why the NI Water system appears to have collapsed…

Courtesy of outter edge of the union, here’s the view of the Institute of Civil Engineers on the matter:

“NIW (and Water Service) has had a programme of staff downsizing over a number of years to reduce overheads and running costs. The number of professional staff, with experience in the capital delivery of water and sewerage projects and in the operation and maintenance of the assets, has reduced considerably over recent years.
The acquired knowledge of professional and technical staff is an asset to be cherished in a customer service organisation. ICE is concerned that without recruitment, retention and succession planning NIW’s intelligent client status will be lost.”

It’s worth reading davenewman’s post here and in particular the dissenter’s counterfactual insight here:

The problem with a CEO appointed to deal with a bloated public service is that the focus is on cuts rather than specifically operational effieciency. Get the process right and the costs fall out; cut costs and the operations muddle through. Murphy focused on costs not operations because he believes in water as a ‘public service’ rather than a service to the public and ultimately perfectly suited to the private sector where (as with examples elsewhere on Slugger) has responded admirably.

Adds: Phil Taylor, Peter Hain’s former right hand man and drafter in chief of most legislation in that time, noted (also on Nolan) that Northern Ireland is enduring cuts of 40% in capital spend imposed from Westminster, and that the Minister’s reluctance to proceed with water charging has left NI Water vulnerable at a time when it least needs it.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty