“Budget Allocations are not the end, but the start of the process”

When the departmental allocations of Northern Ireland’s draft budget were finally revealed on 15th December the public consultation was also set in motion – even though the detail of each minister’s spending plan was not yet known.

That consultation is due to end on 9th February.

But, as the NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, has pointed out to UTV, the majority of NI Executive Ministers have not yet published their spending plans.

“So far despite the fact the information was supposed to be available before Christmas only my own department, the department of culture arts and leisure, the department of justice and the department of enterprise trade and industry have published those”, Mr Wilson told UTV. 

“I don’t think the consultation can take place in a proper way without that information being made available”, Mr Wilson added.

Minister Wilson described the situation as serious.

“I think for the whole process of scrutiny of government it is very serious.

“People need to know how departments intend to make their savings over the next four years and comment on that.

“The work of the assembly can’t possibly be carried forward until this information is given to assembly committees.”

The BBC reports that the Department of Employment and Learning has joined that elite group…

UTV’s political editor, Ken Reid, adds

The Finance Minister says it is time for the others to come to the table. He says the whole consultation process is now under threat. Even the work of the assembly will prove difficult.

Sammy suspects some Ministers do not want to deliver bad news. But there is no way around it, he believes. The cuts are for real.

Unsurprising economic illiteracy aside, as Liam Clarke has said, “Clearly something has got to give…”