“Next time they might try openness and joined-up thinking”

I was somewhat blunter in my initial assessment of the Northern Ireland Executive’s spending plans, but I get the impression Patrick Murphy, in The Irish News, agrees.

Their budgetary plans tell us three things – departments do not talk to each other, few of them know what a customer is and most ministers do not expect to retain their posts after the election.

The information you wanted to know – details of how the cuts will affect you – will generally not be available until after you vote.

Evidence of each department’s solo run lies in the lack of cohesion between their budget statements’ style, format and content.  Only three have equality impact statements: Social Development (DSD), Regional Development (DRD) and, very comprehensively, Environment (DoE).  DRD alone bothered with a risk assessment, an integral part of financial planning.

More significantly, no department refers to another, however close the two ought to be.

And, to highlight just two of the examples he gives,

The health department’s paper has the oddest approach.  While it has the good sense to factor in demographic change, inflation and VAT rises, it offers a list of outcomes which could occur because of its cuts.  (Dear Michael McGimpsey, we can only comment on firm proposals, not on a list of possibilities.)

Education has moved money from capital to revenue, so that there will be no new schools in the foreseeable future.  As its spending proposals indicate, education boards have addressed previous cuts by reducing school maintenance budgets.

There is now a property time-bomb in education.