A ‘budget’ for Ministers who want to both have cake and eat it?

In the News Letter, NR Greer is distinctly underwhelmed by what the Northern Ireland Executive (or at least the majority shareholders within it) are now calling the Northern Irish budget:

The UUP and SDLP have already set their faces against the budget, which is a cobbled together dog’s breakfast of random and vague proposals, noticeable for its lack of clarity, substance or direction.

You would not pass A-level economics (not even new Labour’s dumbed down version) with a document this poorly put together. It is a piece of traditional half- baked Ulster fudge; prepared to avoid decision making and without care, with the expectation that when it all goes wrong somebody will come along to take the blame and give us massive dollops of other people’s money to keep us going.

So far so good for the minority dissenters, but as he goes on to point out, the fudge doesn’t stop at the framers of the budget:

To their credit both the UUP and SDLP parties have pointed to the hopelessness of the budget, but they fail to offer any alternative other than simplistic “no Tory cuts” and “spend, spend, spend” slogans.

He might also throw in the fact that in the case of the UUs, they cheer led the Messers Osborne and Cameron into power on the very austerity ticket that’s at the root of the cuts.Which you might think would have been a stimulus for a more detailed critique of the budget (or at least the ad hoc process of delay and fudge that led to it’s late arrival) itself:

What is their alternative to reduced budgets? I have yet to hear any of our politicians, fervently opposed to spending cuts as they are, tell us where the ever greater mountains of money that they wish to squander will come from.

Do they expect the fairies to leave it in the Long Gallery overnight?

This week’s example comes courtesy of the health minister, the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey, who has gained a reputation for failing to control costs, and for issuing apocalyptic ultimatums whenever he is asked to do so.

McGimpsey has spent taxpayers’ money bringing in a London-based “health policy economist” to help him make his case.

The consultant is chief economist at a think tank that always thinks spending more public money on the NHS is the cure for all ills. I think we know what he will say.

The minister is currently looking for an additional £800 million and is claiming that without it 4,000 jobs will be lost.

However, when it is suggested that he could maybe take a look at staffing structures and the wage bill (there are some 902 local health service staff, doctors and managers, earning over £100,000 a year), instead of reassuring taxpayers’ that their money is being spent wisely, the minister has been known to become a mite defensive.

Indeed. Although there’s no mention of the Minister for Regional Development’s plan to bring NI Water back onto a public accounts book that’s rapidly shrinking…

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  • Crubeen

    The Minister presides over a Department not especially noted for its attentivenes to legal niceties or a proactive approach to ensuring that all the legal bits are tickety-boo – an attitude that, incidentally, spreads downwards and outwards: –

    “Lord Justice Girvan said that a similar difficulty in the law in England and Wales had been resolved by the Health and Social Care Act 2008 which permits payment to a suitable representative of a patient with a disability which deprived him of the power to consent. He said that it was “somewhat surprising that the Department in this jurisdiction was apparently unaware of the English amendment or the need to amend section 8 to lay a proper legal basis for a direct payments scheme entered into directly with a carer in the case of a person under mental disability”. found at

    http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/19B9C06F-DC43-4675-A447-9DE02E998AA1/0/j_sj_InrePFandtheSEHealthandSocialCareTrust070311.html

    Yesterday’s news reported a judicial review (that went against a Health Trust) over its refusal to fund some cleaning costs for a disabled pensioner.

    We have dental problems at the Belfast Trust; the case of the carer who apparently fed herself and not the patient and a Health Trust that just said “Duh!” when this was discovered by the family and, today, a report that a Tust continued to pay an employee’s salary for eight years after he left.

    Small wonder that the Minister becomes a mite defensive. Has he ever heard of “gross misconduct” or “sheer incompetence” such that he could rid the Health and Social Care sector of the morons responsible for the cock-ups?

    Methinks not!

    The 4000 to be made redundant will include none of the hierarchy – those who owe their positions to either (or both) of the Peter or Dilbert Principles and who have made such a hames of the situation. In lieu thereof frontline services will be cut and they will primarily be directed against those least able to protest.

    Music therapy for the severely and profoundly learning disabled is, I am told, to face the axe despite the fact that it is of undoubted benefit to such children. It’s a small service but a valued and useful one … but then who gives a fiddler’s fart about the whining disabled?

    (http://www.etini.gov.uk/an-evaluation-of-the-northern-ireland-music-therapy-trust-arioso-project-in-special-schools-in-northern-ireland.pdf)

  • Crubeen

    Sorry … hit the button too soon!
    After all the learning disabled haven’t got a voice, haven’t got a vote and never will have.
    Pace Lord Gnome …. Trebles all round!

  • Neil

    John Simpson was on the Nolan show this week explaining that the NI NHS was down in spending by 1% – 2%, while McGimp has been telling everyone that the NHS in NI was just about bankrupt.

    The campaigning starts here. I just severely doubt the McGimp’s complaints are likely to help the UUP get any more votes in May, quite the reverse if he’s found out to be so incompetent that he can’t figure out a way of saving less than 2% off his budget.