Education Minister refuses to provide colleagues with a breakdown of £2 Billion of funding for schools…

So there’s been a little addendum to the sudden, and last minute, reappearance of £72 million in funding in the Department of Education just before the minister was expected to explain his spending patterns to the Finance Minister.

It seems the Finance Minister is not best pleased [Ahem, well we did suggest he mightn’t be – Ed] On the Radio Ulster lunchtime news bulletin on Friday, Martina Purdy noted this little number (which seems not to have made it to the BBCNI New website):

The Finance and Education ministers have clashed over plans to reform the budget process at Stormont. Sammy Wilson wants to make it easier to track where money is spent – but John O’Dowd is thought to be concerned about losing flexibility on spending. This report from our political correspondent Martina Purdy.

Sammy Wilson has been trying since March 9th to get his paper on financial process discussed at the Executive after passing it to ministers. But the Education department had been blocking the discussion – which Mr Wilson was finally able to raise yesterday under any other business. The finance minister has been under pressure from his committee frustrated at the lack of clarity and transparency in the budget process.

One issue is a line in the budget which shows nearly £2 billion going to school spending this year – with no breakdown on where the money is going. John O’Dowd is believed to have indicated he has no problem with transparency. The concern is that he does not want to lose the power to shift funds within the schools budget.

Later the Minister released a statement saying, ‘Executive meetings are confidential and the media should be extremely wary of politically motivated leaks’. Well, quite. Except this leak comes with a name and a fair amount of telling detail.

Most obviously, if you don’t have to reveal where the money was originally allocated then you don’t have to explain why so much cash apparently went missing for so long. Nor why you only ‘found out’ a few weeks before the ‘end of term’.

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  • cynic2

    Is this news? Twas ever thus.

    Ministers want the flexibility to hoodwink Department of Finance and tell the porkies they want to tell (while waving the odd shroud)

    Finance want to control, control control and lock them into a straightjacket

    And on both sides Senior Civil Servants will be sidling up to their bosses saying …’he’s getting one over on you – dont let him get away with that”

    Classic Yes Minister stuff and a depressing sign of normality!

  • PaulT

    So, more Sammy clunking around, can he be long for the chop, refusing to pay SpAds and now ignoring the Education Committee, is he going insane or out to get Merv.

    He must remember the Education Committee, he was the Chair until Merv replaced him in 2008.

    A quick peek at the minutes give an idea on the depth of transparancy

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Education/Minutes/09-May-2012/

    I think it comes back to a previous OP on the DUP choosing the hot seats and SF the vote winning ministries, as I said then better to do good in an average job than fail in a big job, and Sammy is now failing and acting as if he was looking after the budget for a village fete not NI.

    Can he dig himself out of 2 holes?

  • PaulT

    Just to add, £2billion budget, £72m is…………0.036%

  • PaulT

    which as its over 3 years is actually ……….0.012% per annum

  • Mick Fealty

    Paul,

    You’re looking down the wrong end of the binoculars. As the minister has stated several times, there are an awful lot of decisions to be made over the size of the school estate in the next few years.

    There ought, inside the Executive at least, to be some form of transparency surely? The Minister of Finance is shelling out a significant proportion of the family budget on Education.

  • PaulT

    But there is transparency Mick, the % was worth mentioning cos it was so small, my other point regarding the Education Committee is still valid, read the minutes, they delve everywhere, Sammy used to chair the committee, he knows they scrutinise the department, so he can only want to have control over allocation and spend, hence O’Dowd’s pointed comments.

    It looks more like a half-arse attempt at aping Gordon Brown’s stalinist approach. and wanting control over everything.

    Of course, Brown’s approach was because he wanted the top job, I think this is more Sammy smarting from O’Dowd making him look ineffective and going overboard making himself look both ineffective and reactive.

    Alternative Answer

    “there are an awful lot of decisions to be made over the size of the school estate in the next few years.”

    so SF don’t duck the big jobs then?

    Of course similar big decisions over at Culture as well, with commerations etc

  • salgado

    PaulT – 3.6% surely? The UK government uses the smaller version of billion.

    So not quite that small.

    (I’ve not really got a point, I’m just being pedantic)

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not at all sure PaulT. We’ve seen some small (long overdue) closures, but the bulk of the work remains. And there are some difficult decisions to make re closing some schools and opening others.

    I’ve had some people raise with me the situation in south Belfast where there is no longer a controlled high school. The result that kids who don’t get access to the local Grammars, have to be bused out of the area.

    If the budget line over schools is buried, how can anyone challenge the Minister?

    He has to be taken on trust. Now leave any concern about ‘opposition’ to one side, that doesn’t leave the Education committee with much to go on never mind the guy who has to carry the ultimate can for what goes wrong (as well as – when it comes to election time – claiming every little thing that goes right).

  • PaulT

    “He has to be taken on trust.”

    Yes Mick, so has Sammy, and every other minister in any assembly or government.

    OR

    is it cos he’s a fenian

    OR

    Poor arguement Mick, you confirm my suggestion that Sammy isn’t up to the job, if he doesn’t know his remit or feels he needs extra powers to fulfil his remit he shouldn’t be in the job. Read what you write, he’s in the hot seat, so why is he worried about the bloke sitting next to him. What O’Dowd does is a minor part of Sammy’s responsibility, is Sammy so on top of his job he can afford to lend a hand or is he looking for a distraction.

    I think there’s a conflict coming in the DUP before the next election because I think the sums don’t look great, TBH I think SF’s success in the South is eating away at a few DUP people, so its not just market share, its a feeling of inferiority

  • cynic2

    Paul T

    “Sammy isn’t up to the job” and ” is it cos he’s a fenian” just smack of bitter sectarian nonsense and an the inability to understand how normal politics works in any Government.

    PS is the Minister a Fenian now? After all he is a Minister in a British Government and his party has helped copper fasten the border for the foreseeable future.

    As for ” its a feeling of inferiority”, perhaps its actually a SF feeling of superiority – after all, now they have embraced their Brit identity, it comes naturally as part of the package so just relax and enjoy the benefits of belonging to a major country.

  • PaulT

    Well Cynic as they found out in the middle east you can rent an Afghan but you can’t buy one.

    Think, something may have slipped out there with the term ‘belonging’ sez it all really, perhaps it explains the desire to be ‘part’ of the Irish nation instead, that whole ‘belonging’ and ownership thing went out the window mid 20th century (have you kept an old map with all the pink bits, just for the memories)

    Incidently I see Sammy is off on his third (force!) solo run, with a desire to run policing in Larne. But still his Party stay silence, he’s become the Theresa May of Stormont,

  • cynic2

    Paul T

    You missed the ‘to’ after the ‘belonging’.

    But I am shocked that you think the Shinners are only being rented for the moment. Still perhaps – should that moment ever pass and they lose their fondness for perhaps Prince William’s Great Great Grandson’s picture on the oul £50 notes, I am sure that the Republican Community (TM) will welcome them back into the fold along with their money