“this is significantly exacerbated by the political situation in Northern Ireland”

As well as those briefings by the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, both he and the NI First Minister have been dismissing political criticism of the draft NI Executive spending plans as ‘electioneering’.  No doubt that’s a consideration for some, but it’s not a charge that can be levelled at the Assembly’s Finance Committee.

And as the Belfast Telegraph reports, PricewaterhouseCooper’s economic analysis of those draft plans is that “the [NI] Budget may not be deliverable in its current form”.

[Esmond Birnie, Chief Economist at PwC in Belfast] said it and the associated Departmental plans have ended up as a patchwork of unaligned spending proposals, unrelated to the Programme for Government or to cross-departmental economic and social objectives.

In the absence of information not currently available to consultees, there is a cumulative shortfall that could exceed £2bn by 2014-15,” he said. “We are deeply concerned at the almost complete absence of economic and social targets and outcomes underpinning the draft Budget and departmental plans for the period to 2014-15.” [added emphasis]

From the PwC press release

PwC tried to compare the spending plans of the 12 Departments and reconcile these with the draft Budget published on 15 December.

Their comparison formula (Departmental baseline spending, plus inescapable commitments, minus available resources, plus stated planned savings) could not be completed as a number of Departments had published insufficient information while there was no standard format for Departmental reporting.

Consequently, the PwC analysis concludes that the draft Budget (as defined by the published plans of the 12 Departments) does not balance. 

They also identified a number of areas where cross-departmental activities seemingly conflicted: 

  • Sufficient funds may be available from DOJ to complete the Desertcreat Training College  but, as DHSSPS cannot fund its share of recurring operational costs, the viability of the project may now be in doubt
  • DRD’s decision to further defer domestic water charging will, in effect, require other Departments to subsidise DRD to the extent of the tax forgone (around £800m over the period of the draft Budget)
  • Pressures on DEL funding may threaten targets in the Programme for Government 2008-11 relating to additional PhD places, deemed necessary by DETI to upscale innovation in the economy
  • DE’s commitment to compensate schools for the loss of access to End Year Flexibility may mean DE having a first call on money during in year bids (where previously DHSSPS had this advantage), thus increasing unplanned pressure on overall Executive funding resources.

Esmond Birnie says that Departments have seemingly not exercised opportunities to raise revenues and/or effect savings where opportunities exist to market-test a wide range of services currently provided within the public sector.

The press release adds

The PwC analysis tempers its overall criticism of the draft Budget and Departmental plans by acknowledging that the lack of holistic, cross-departmental cohesion in the plans is, at least in part, understandable given the multi party, ‘forced coalition’ model of government.

PwC managing partner, Hugh Crossey says: “A tight budget is difficult enough to deliver across Departments in a traditional model of democratic government and this is significantly exacerbated by the political situation in Northern Ireland.” [added emphasis]

Political reform, anyone?

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  • “Political reform, anyone?”

    Pete, it’s probably worth pointing out that Esmond Birnie was an UUP MLA for South Belfast who failed to make the cut in the 2007 Assembly election, was a constituency colleague of Michael McGimpsey who is currently under DUP and SF fire, was subsequently a Reg Empey SpAd and the UUP party leader is currently promoting – political reform.

    [aside]CAJ is unhappy with several aspects of the DRD’s draft budget:

    “We recognise the efforts that have been made by DRD to comply with the equality duties of by s75 Northern Ireland Act 1998 (‘s75’). However, despite this effort, the DRD draft budget 2011-15 consultation document contains insufficient information on the equality assessments undertaken to scrutinise the proposals. Further, the timing of the proposed EQIA does not allow its findings to inform public input to the budget 2011-15 consultation exercise. Therefore, it is difficult to respond to DRD’s consultation on its draft budget
    2011-15 in a meaningful way.”

  • Pete Baker

    Nevin

    You’re skating over the surface, playing the man as you do so, rather than looking at the detail. No change there…

    For a start, “Political reform, anyone?” was my comment – not PwC’s.

    Here’s what PwC actually said about the Executive’s spending plans and what happens next

    “Nevertheless, while consultation on the draft Budget and Departmental spending plans has concluded, the debate on how to deal with the shortcomings should now begin.

    “The next weeks will be a test of the Assembly and its Executive and their ability to address the specific concerns of those consulteees who remain unsure if this [is] either a balanced or a deliverable Budget.”

  • Goodness me, Pete, drop the vendetta; it’s just a blog thread. Can’t you join up the dots? It was self-evidently your comment and my comment comes under declaration of interest.

    Perhaps I should withdraw my earlier aside. CAJ’s comments complement those of Esmond Birnie.

    I followed the AFC/CFP link but unfortunately it took me to a brief BBC report. If the BBC is quoting from the CPD Report on the Executive’s Draft Budget 2011-15 then surely the report should be online. I’ve looked but can’t find it.

  • Pete Baker

    You’re leaping to conclusions again, Nevin. And inviting others to follow you.

    You have to work harder than that to prove conspiracy.

    If you disagree with something that’s been said then attempt to disprove it. Or even argue against it.

    For example, the quote I’ve highlighted from PwC managing partner, Hugh Crossey

    “A tight budget is difficult enough to deliver across Departments in a traditional model of democratic government and this is significantly exacerbated by the political situation in Northern Ireland.”

    That’s a simple statement of fact for a mandatory coalition.

    A more significant point made in the PwC press release is this

    PwC tried to compare the spending plans of the 12 Departments and reconcile these with the draft Budget published on 15 December.

    Their comparison formula (Departmental baseline spending, plus inescapable commitments, minus available resources, plus stated planned savings) could not be completed as a number of Departments had published insufficient information while there was no standard format for Departmental reporting.

  • Pete, I see you’ve dropped ‘dysfunctional’ from your tags on this thread. Jim Allister is another enthusiastic user of the label:

    “After the latest public outbreak of vicious infighting and turmoil within the Stormont regime, what more proof does anyone need of the unworkability of this dysfunctional Executive? It isn’t functioning, it isn’t delivering, and it’s a huge embarrassment. It’s as far removed from good government as could be imagined.”

    “Sinn Fein and the DUP are backing the budget and accusing the SDLP and UUP of undermining the executive from within.” BBC link

    Perhaps ‘synchronised mud-slinging’ could be introduced as a new sport.

  • “You have to work harder than that to prove conspiracy.”

    Pete, I merely referred to declaration of interest. There’s no need to over-egg it.

  • A little bit more from the linked PWC report:

    “The draft Budget was delivered to the Assembly by the Finance Minister on 15 December 2010, but it was made clear that consultation would be managed not by DFP, but by individual Departments. The Minister said:

    “…This process will not be led by DFP but by individual Departments who will now publish their savings plans and spending proposals. This will allow interested parties to provide the views that will shape the final Budget position that I will bring before this Assembly in February.”

    This implied that Departments could “… publish their savings plans and spending proposals” in a manner of their own choosing. We believed at the time that this could result in a lack of transparency and an inability to compare Departments in a like-for-like manner. We believed this would be true especially in terms of relating individual Departmental spending and savings proposals, both to each other and to the draft Budget statement of 15 December. This has proved to be the case. ..

    We note that the consultation process does not relate to the current Programme for Government (PFG) nor does it set out the high-level aspirations for any new PFG. Consequently, we must conclude that the 2011-15 Budget will be agreed ahead of any consensus on targets and outcomes for public services or economic rebalancing over the next four years. This is a reversal of what should be the sequence of decision making (agree strategy, define outcomes, set key performance indicators [KPIs] and finally, assign appropriate budget lines) and represents one of the greatest concerns and potential weaknesses in the entire draft Budget process.

  • Is the master, politically incorrect, plan to a) first get re-elected with that which is now in the public domain as they way forward, and then b) introduce all those extra cuts and expenses, which the tapped out public will be be charged for with other rates rises and stealth tax increases on their purses and wallets.

    Which you will/should notice is not a question shared here, but a statement of most likely political intent and future fact.

    Methinks that will crash the Assembly and extraordinarily render transparently, the elected members as nothing less than crooked fraudsters unfit for public office.

    Are they still waiting on the smarter private sector to race to the rescue, so that they can tax novel products and services to pay for their ignorance and arrogant presumption and assumption of leadership?

    One does wonder if that is something which Intelligence should be providing, or are their services bankrupt of innovative ideas and novel stock too, and just another Ponzi scam, rehashing worthless old products in a vain attempt to be considered relevant in the world of tomorrow, today?

  • Old Mortality

    Nevin
    It’s a lost cause when the likes of CAJ feel the need to throw in their penny’s worth. The prospect of proposed cuts being obstructed by EQIAs is deeply alarming.