“When an elected official is less able to act on the public will the motivation for the public to vote declines.”

Interesting from Jeffrey Donaldson in which he cuts to the real existential problem for all politicians in Northern Ireland:

Despite the cuts handed down by the Tory government, we prioritised action that will deliver real change on the ground. We have just launched a £27m package of special initiatives to tackle the deep-seated problems in working class areas such as literacy and numeracy.

We created £80m Social Investment Fund which prioritised action on the ground for working class communities. We created the Social Protection Fund to provide help and assistance to the most vulnerable in our society.

Finally, we must make politics stronger. The public and political will is too often frustrated or killed by process or procedure. This is not unique to Northern Ireland but commonplace across Western democracies.

When an elected official is less able to act on the public will the motivation for the public to vote declines. Northern Ireland should be in the vanguard of pushing back against this. We must reduce the bureaucracy and rebuild the power of democratic politics.”[emphasis added]

That goes to the heart of the problem for most professional politicians. What is the public interest in any one set of circumstances? And how do even the more powerful of our local politicians act on them.

Julian Dobson was in Belfast last week and he had some suggestions for action (not all of which would find a happy home with the DUP):

First, reviving civic life, creating more people-friendly ways for people to be involved in decision-making where they live and work. These could range from formal arrangements like urban parish coincils and participatory budgeting to informal, easy-access initiatives like Chicago’s Give a Minute campaign. A city where people feel involved is one that can draw on citizens’ energy to meet future challenges.

Second, localise investment. I heard the other day about a recent trip by movers and shakers in Northern Ireland to persuade the New York State pension fund of the investment opportunities Belfast has to offer. Well, they were asked, where does your pension fund invest? It’s a good question, and not just for Northern Ireland’s pension funds.

Third, inspire innovation. Create spaces where people can generate ideas and connect with others to make them. The acknowledged leaders don’t have to hog the leading. They need to enable others to play their part and welcome those who have new ideas to offer.

Fourth, prioritise production. If we want people to spend in our cities they need to earn. And if they aren’t productive themselves – if they can’t find outlets for their creativity and inventiveness that provide them with decent livelihoods – then our economy is built on sand.

Finally, we need a much greener economy. One that prioritises local food production, encourages good quality public transport, builds to sustainable standards, invests in renewable energy and technologies that reduce and eliminate waste.

We need this not only because it is better and cleaner and good for the planet, but also because these are the jobs of the future. If we don’t create them, we’ll be left scraping around for opportunities to service the people who do. And we already have a lot of catching up to do.

Much of this is talked about in our politics, but only in the most generalised of ways. That’s one reason why our series on Social Innovation ought to be of some interest to politicians who are looking for new ways of delivering social value to their own communities…

Not least tomorrow’s session on the barriers to social innovation

  • tacapall

    “Despite the cuts handed down by the Tory government, we prioritised action that will deliver real change on the ground. We have just launched a £27m package of special initiatives to tackle the deep-seated problems in working class areas such as literacy and numeracy.”

    Newsflash to Jeffery –

    http://www.u.tv/News/15-suicides-in-Belfast-since-July/7cf9d18b-cd7b-46f4-aaf3-efa25a185015

    “There have been 15 suspected suicides in Belfast since July, it’s been revealed.

    Health Minister Edwin Poots said the death rate by suicide is twice as high in deprived areas of Northern Ireland but added that work is ongoing to alleviate the problem.”

    Most of those 15 tragic deaths occurred in the east of belfast, this is real news, real problems that needs talked about and tackled immediately. Teaching people numeracy and literacy just isn’t going to sort this cross community problem out.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not sure what point you are trying to make Tac? Or how it relates to the point make in the original post.

    If you have a policy initiative in mind, please share it?

  • Mick,
    I know you just cut and pasted but that heading is awfully difficult to make sense of. It needs a comma after the word “will”.

  • Framer

    Sorry Julian. Most of the NI public sector pension funds don’t have funds. The civil service one isn’t funded at all and the health service one is entirely notional. They are essentially giant Ponzi schemes.
    Only local government (NILGOSC) is funded and so far as I know does invest some of its money locally but how much?

  • BluesJazz

    Or…to paraphrase

    When an elected official is proven to be spending taxpayers money in 5 star hotels watching ‘premium rate’ movies the motivation for the public to vote declines.

    But, of course they may have been ‘existential’ movies?

    And the ‘cuts’ were not ‘handed down’ by the ‘Tory? government’ they were passed hush hush by the Stormont Executive without so much as an assembly debate.

  • tacapall

    Mick spending 27 million on the the deep-seated problems in working class areas and highlighting as the main point numeracy and literacy. – Are these people serious ?

    Suicide has been a major problem in working class areas since the GFA, rather than focus spending millions on facelifts and big balls or numeracy and literacy, money should be invested helping our communities tackle the issue of drugs and alcoholism, if there’s one type of business we have too much of in our areas its pubs and clubs, there’s one on every corner as you drive up the Falls its the same in East Belfast and I couldn’t count the many there is in such a small area like Ardyone.

    I honestly believe we need to bulldoze the whole place and rebuild, give more space between houses and invest money in community based mental heath awareness programs that tackle the issues which directly effect our communities. There should be psychiatric nurses who are on 24 hour standby who could be ready to assist at any time day or night obviously that would have to be a short term measure and would be costly but our people, our children, are killing themselves too easily and too often and its obvious our areas need special treatment for a special problem.

  • The Raven

    Tacapall – I don’t argue with anything you say. The mental health issues up here in the North East/West are (literally) depressing. Further afield, I understand that there have been six suicides in Fermanagh over the past couple of weeks?

    Dobson’s points are all good. Of course, the first one is being removed with the move towards RPA…if it ever happens. And most of the rest have been mooted already.

    But the Social Investment Fund…those of us outside of Belfast and Derry will be watching with some interest to see where the lion’s share of that money goes. The “community schemes”…the “we need a community centre in our area” projects…the scraps from the table to anything outside the two main centres.

    The Fund’s area-based panels were virtually picked behind closed doors. I love the phrase, “political appointments”. Covers so many possibilities. Much in the same way as Policing and Community Safety Partnerships have the same old faces. And the same old “new” faces too. If that face doesn’t fit, that is, swing one way or t’other, don’t apply.

    Jeffrey has some neck to talk about community will, when he and others think that the sham-fight/carve-up to-ing-and-fro-ing aren’t completely transparent to people on the streets.

    It’s going to take more than an £80m buy-off to get those turn-out figures up again.

  • IJP

    tac

    Are you seriously suggesting we don’t have a major problem with basic numeracy and literacy here? Seriously?

    Do you actually live here?

    Basic numeracy and literacy is pretty much the biggest social problem we have. We have vast swathes of young people leaving our “education” system unable to read and account properly. Do you not see how that contributes to a life of sheer boredom, living off the State and unable to begin anything approaching a career?

    And now, do you not see how that links to worthlessness, depression and suicide?

    What is wrong with what JD says is that we should be spending all of the money (£80m plus £27m) on basic skills, not spending £80m which will inevitably end up going to disjointed projects which have no real impact where an impact is needed.

  • Brian Walker

    Mmm Trouble is, an apolitical, civic based system won’t happen unless the politicians want it to. . Remember that for 30 years, civic based development often meant State funded paramilitary control through “Community” workers and councils. Their successors are now part of the political system. However I admit I’m pretty ignorant about the social infrastructure. Has a new one been built that is genuinely community based and draws in expertise and accountability? I’d love to know.

    Secondly, let’s remember that Northern Ireland is the size of an English metro council area. The distance between the local and the central is small and should be exploited for quicker, more responsive government

    Thirdly, the limitation in Jeffrey’s point is that in this speech he is only claiming action for his own people. We need to know the impact of those targeted spending programmes throughout the community. I may be wrong but they seem little more than repackages of shrinking budgets; it’s hard to see what else they can be.

    Finally, there seems to be little debate even in academe about social and economic development. This is shameful and needs to be corrected.

  • Dec

    ‘What is wrong with what JD says is that we should be spending all of the money (£80m plus £27m) on basic skills, not spending £80m which will inevitably end up going to disjointed projects which have no real impact where an impact is needed.

    So that would be £107m saved if these people learnt to read and write (and ‘account’) in school like the rest of us f***king did? Still why bother trying to improve yourself or get a job when you just know there’s another sledgeload of taxpayers money around the corner (to supplement your benefit) to help you acquire a skill certain advanced primates have already mastered in Californian research laboratories?
    I’d be far more impressed if a politician announced £100m was being diverted away from a social grouping which is largely dominated by lazy wankers whose lack of literacy apparently does not stop them reading the safety instructions on fireworks packaging. Or having iPhones.

  • tacapall

    “But the Social Investment Fund…those of us outside of Belfast and Derry will be watching with some interest to see where the lion’s share of that money goes. The “community schemes”…the “we need a community centre in our area” projects…the scraps from the table to anything outside the two main centres.

    The Fund’s area-based panels were virtually picked behind closed doors. I love the phrase, “political appointments”. Covers so many possibilities. Much in the same way as Policing and Community Safety Partnerships have the same old faces. And the same old “new” faces too. If that face doesn’t fit, that is, swing one way or t’other, don’t apply.”

    I know only too well what you mean Raven, where I come from those community based jobs are handed out on a revolving door basis, its the same people with the same old ideas who whenever the funding is finished walk straight back in the door under a different job title for another year or two. I have to laugh when they advertise these jobs when its already been decided who gets the position before the job advertisement is in the paper and the majority of these people have a foot in the door in anything thats going some of them have 3 or 4 jobs you’re left wondering if its greed or a need to control everything.

    IJP

    “Are you seriously suggesting we don’t have a major problem with basic numeracy and literacy here? Seriously?

    Do you actually live here”

    Yes I do actually live here I live in West Belfast and I dont disagree with you that we have a major problem with numeracy and literacy but – “We have vast swathes of young people leaving our “education” system unable to read and account properly” Do you not think our education system is to blame for that, should we not be asking ourselves how can any child go through our education system for like 12 years or more and come out at the end of it unable to read or account for themselves.

    The reality is alcohol and drugs are our major problems, young people being brought up with an alcoholic parent or parents who have also serious mental health problems due to a range of problems connected to the past conflict. Without being offensive its monkey see monkey do in regards to whats right and wrong or whats life all about to those people. There is a problem with numeracy and literacy but that’s not the underlying problem within working class communities, trying to teach alcoholics and drug addicts to read and write is like trying to keep wasps away from an open jam jar when your having a picnic.

  • Jack2

    Here’s the reason voter turnout is decreasing.

    NEGATIVE politics. The politics of hate.
    DUP manifesto blurb:
    “Over the last few years Northern Ireland has come a long way. Since the DUP became the largest party we have seen the Provisional IRA decommission, end their terrorist campaign and Sinn Fein support policing”

    Provisional IRA, terrorist & Sinn Fein – all got a hit in only the opening statement.

    Negative politics and professional full time politicians. Nepotism is rife with no penalty for failure.
    Look at Ruane & Conor Murphy on the other side for cocking things up but yet still employed.

    If we vote will it matter?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Jeffery is stating the obvious, like him or not he regularly gets a high mandate. It’s the Occum’s Razor of Opinion poll, if you can’t reach people’s bottom line you won’t get votes. It’s the business end of politics, politics is basically a market for votes not ideas … a popularity contest not a design competition.

    Dobson is merely talking about policy issues, and the majority of them would probably be closer to the SDLP’s policies than the DUP’s to be honest with you. Policy issues get next to no air time, political debates often go to the lowest common denominator here, partially because that’s where the average voter’s expectation level is realistically stuck. I don’t blame the DUP or SF for this, or the voter, it seems the media are unwilling to risk ratings to deal with boring but critical economic matters.

  • FuturePhysicist

    “Mmm Trouble is, an apolitical, civic based system won’t happen unless the politicians want it to. . “

    Rubbish, utter rubbish … politicians have no control over civic networking, associations or activism. There is plenty of scope for many extraparliamentary systems capable of filling gaps in Stormont.

    The reason why our civic politics is poor is because we don’t encourage it. A strong civic political climate could dominate over the current system but the reality is we are not as a society either bothered or willing to do what it takes.

    Instead, we actively encourage people to HATE politics rather than change it, and then there is a delusion that you achieve parity with non-voters who give neither mandate nor permission for you to speak on their behalf.

    Our Political parties were created by civic movements, through time and hard work. People want success without effort and cannot win votes have no right to dictate what civic society wants.

    I’m an SDLP supporter, I accept the will of the people to vote DUP and SF into the power … I can’t understand how those wanting to campaign on behalf of civic society take the first step to ignore the will of the people to do this. As an SDLP activist, I would try to win votes and transfers from SF and from the DUP on policy issues, more importantly I would be seeking to get the potential non-voter out to vote … preferably for the SDLP, but at least vote for someone.

    I certainly wouldn’t sit on my backside complaining for “new politics” while having no ideas or solutions of your own to risk before the public.