Bullshit, and joined-up government…

Some four weeks after the departmental allocations were agreed and all Northern Ireland Executive departments have, to a greater or lesser extent, finally published their spending plans.  Don’t worry, though.  There’ll be an extra week of that public consultation…

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, is complaining that the UK Treasury has “swiped” £300million of NI departments’ yearly underspend – rather than allowing it to be drawn down in the subsequent year.

The NIO has issued a statement in response

Any money that has not been spent by Departments but carried over for use in future years is known as End Year Funding (EYF).

To help tackle the record deficit that the country inherited, the Chancellor announced in June that, regrettably, it was necessary to change the rules on EYF across government.

However the special circumstances of the Devolved Administrations, including Northern Ireland, were recognised by the Treasury.

And so theTreasury agreed to honour the amount of EYF for NI for the current year.

This amounts to some £217m and has been agreed with the Executive.

It has also been agreed – exceptionally – that if the Executive wishes to carry over money to the next financial year it may do so if the cut in spending in the current year is agreed in advance. [added empahsis]

And on those departmental spending plans. 

The Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, has decided to cut a further £41million from the department’s capital spend budget to “minimise the impacts in the classroom” – although £10m has also been set aside to pay for redundancies over the next two years.

The NI Health Minister, the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey, on the other hand, is to go ahead with building a satellite radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital, but is warning that there will be no cash to run it.  [Adds – No revenue funding for the Fire and Rescue Service Training College at Desertcreat either.  NI Health spending plans (pdf file).]

That decision, and his overall spending plan, has earned Michael McGimpsey the wrath of Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd. 

Last seen defending his party colleague, the Northern Ireland Water Minister Conor Murphy, John O’Dowd is now calling for the NI Health Minister’s head… 

As Mick said, “Ministerial responsibility? It depends on who the Minister is

And speaking of the NI Regional Development Minister and capital spending… [Adds – BBC report on DRD spending plans]

According to the ministerial statement

…the DRD draft budget has allocated almost £2 billion to capital investment over the budget period.  This includes over £1.1 billion for roads, around £185 million for public transport and over £665 million for water and sewerage services.”  

On roads, the allocations would allow the Department to continue development work on the A6 Dungiven to Derry scheme and begin construction of:

  • the A32 in Enniskillen, providing improved transport links and improving access to the new acute hospital in Enniskillen
  • the 85km dual carriageway on the A5 between Derry and Aughnacloy [added emphasis]
  • the 14km dual carriageway on the A8 between Belfast and Larne

That would be “the 85km dual carriageway on the A5” despite the doubt cast on the Irish government’s financial contribution to the project.

And, as the Irish Times reports today

OPPONENTS OF plans for a new road between Dublin and Derry have welcomed a decision by the Oireachtas transport committee to hold public hearings next month.

The proposed route would be Ireland’s longest new road, replacing much of the N2 in the Republic and the A5 in Northern Ireland. It would be part-financed by €500 million which the Government agreed to provide under the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

The Oireachtas hearings were requested by Joe Costello TD, Labour’s transport spokesman, after he met a coalition of anti-motorway and pro-heritage groups from both sides of the Border in Leinster House this week.

Mr Costello told the delegation that Labour would draft a new national development plan if it entered government and every current infrastructure project would be reviewed, “no matter what stage of planning it is at”. [added emphasis]

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  • A civil servant’s ‘indicative savings’ are another man’s cuts.

  • Drumlins Rock

    correct me if I’m wrong, but reading that it sounds as if Sammy got the whole thing wrong this morning?

  • pippakin

    Have the Brits grabbed the money back or not? Link is to UTV and a complaint from Peter Robinson.

    http://bit.ly/e18V4m

  • Cynic2

    So the sums were wrapped up in the allocations made to the Departments?

    Looks like Catatonia didn’t understand what was happening and / or had her eye wiped by Finance.

    Now there’s a surprise.

    But in any case, given the state of some of our schools and the desperate state of the construction industry, why was she sitting on a pot of £87m unspent ie ten large new schools. Shambollic mis-management

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12193609

    “Motorists also face the introduction of higher parking charges and penalties. Charges will increase by an average 15% per year while penalties for parking illegally will also increase.

    Parking attendants
    And parking ticket rage will no longer be a big city phenomenon, charging for on-street parking is to extend to every town across Northern Ireland.

    The extension of charging hours for all car parks and pay and display zones is also being considered.

    But don’t count on more orderly streets as a result, the budget cuts will see a reduction in the number of parking attendants.”

  • “charging for on-street parking is to extend to every town across Northern Ireland.”

    This should help drive shoppers to the supermarkets with free car parks.

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12190057

    “Mr McGimpsey said there would also be a massive reduction in the number of home-care packages”

    I f those in need have been assessed as requiring a level of help, under certain statutory duties, how the hell can that be cut?

  • Cynic2

    Saw McGimpsey’s shroud waving. A wonderful combination of public negotiation, electioneering and blame avoidance.

    He has his budget. He should eliminate the real waste in the NHS in NI and live within it. It’s time for hard choices for everyone – and that doesn’t always mean cutting front line services but looking for ways to do things differently and better for less money

  • Conor Murphy has certainly got his priorities right: spent a few bob on tri-lingual OOPs bi-lingual street signs. Will it divert attention from his handling of the NIW fiasco and the Rathlin ferry saga?

    Even the draft Equality Impact Assessment accompanying the consultation paper concludes the policy has the potential to damage “good relations between persons of different political opinion”.

    Perhaps he should have adopted the tactics of his party colleague, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: persuade bodies like Belfast Harbour, Tourism Ireland and the Strategic Investment Board to financially support or endorse SF-related projects. The MSM seems to have missed out on that wheeze to extract funds from organisations which should be apolitical.

  • Cynic2

    Nevin

    Absolutely right. Wrap yourself in the flag and propose something themus will hate and you are on a winner in Northern Ireland ‘politics’. Over the next few months you can expect to se DRD propose a number of financial measures include:

    1 £5000 tax on every Orange Arch
    2 £5000 bonfire cleanup fee
    3 Capitation charge on all marches on public roads wearing sashes + banner tax
    4 Study on upgrade of more roads from Dublin to SF marginal constituencies
    5 More roads from nowhere to Donegal to make it easier for SF members to reach holiday homes

  • Cynic, Rathlin Island has been a very popular destination in recent years for Assembly ministers bearing gifts, in particular Conor Murphy.

    Then the bad news began to filter through. The Electoral Office in its wisdom decided that the islanders, many of them elderly, didn’t need a ballot box.

    Some of the frail elderly have already suffered cuts in their care packages, sometimes at a few days notice, so I don’t see Michael McGimpsey making a return visit to announce the latest dose of bad news.

    Conor Murphy managed to ‘lose’ a professional ferry operator and his department is now proposing a cut of £200,000 per annum from 2013 from an annual subsidy of £666,000 and from some money being spent on consultancy fees. The ‘indicative savings’ – cuts to you and me – are to be made in staff costs; most of the staff are islanders. Some members of the DRD ‘circus’ were very keen to obtain the services of the current operator but, according to Companies House records, this operator’s liabilities greatly exceeded assets at the end of March, 2010.

  • “More roads from nowhere to Donegal”

    Cynic, the end of Dublin’s support for a Public Service Obligation on the Dublin-Derry air route will have consequences for City of Derry airport and for Donegal.

    The Airport Manager, Damien Tierney said the airport will be liaising with the current carrier, Aer Arann and other commercial providers, to discuss the future of the route. “The Airport believes the Derry to Dublin service provides a valuable tourism and business link for the region. While passenger numbers at the airport over the past six months are holding despite the recent pressures in relation to severe weather conditions and the economic downturn the Dublin service has had a challenging year. .. Derrycity website 13/01/11

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin I think these particular “savings” come under the term bullshit.

    It’s hard to imagine that some of the decision makers are capable of joined up writing, never mind joined up government.

    For a department run by accountants, they certainly can’t add it all up,

  • Cynic2

    “the Derry to Dublin service provides a valuable tourism and business link for the region”

    …. then we presume those using it will be happy to pay the cost in return for the value and not expect a state subsidy. The State teat has run dry

  • Cynic2

    “Cynic, Rathlin Island has been a very popular destination in recent years for Assembly ministers bearing gifts, in particular Conor Murphy.”

    It is always wise in such situations to ask who is the beneficiaries of such gifts and why are decisions being made if they appear so irrational. That applies whether it’s ferries or persuading anonymous businessmen to invest in bankrupt football clubs

  • Cynic2

    “Passenger numbers at the airport over the past six months are holding ”

    But that’s all irrelevant – what profit / loss is it making? that’s the issue