Gerry Adams (and Sammy Wilson) putting on a Poor Mouth over £4 Billion of ‘elusive’ cuts?

“At a public meeting discussing disruption as a result of the G8, an official from the British Foreign & Commonwealth claimed that the summit would bring in up to £700 million into the local economy.

“This is a figure that has been plucked from thin air, for no other reason but to deal with the growing resentment at the level of disruption in Fermanagh as a result of the G8.[emphasis added]

That’s Phil Flanagan Sinn Fein MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone making an valid point about false costings coming from politicians and/or civil servants who have no time to think up a better or more accurate pitch for something they want to happen.

Which in turn brings me to the extraordinary news that the British have cut the block grant to Northern Ireland by £4 Billion delivered by Gerry in Dail Eireann the other day:

…all of the parties at St Andrews agreed to a significant peace dividend and investment of £18 billion.

One of the first actions of the current British Government was to renege on this commitment. This decision removed from the Executive the ability to deliver a major capital investment programme which would have had the dual effect of providing much needed employment in the construction industry while bringing our roads, hospitals and schools up to the necessary standard.

The next action of the British Government was to cut the block grant by £4 billion.

Note that figure. We can’t see any evidence that this is a cut of any description other than a write down of monies promised by the Labour Government. It was reiteration in remarkably similar terms to those used by Martin McGuinness in the Bel Tel the day before…

One of the first actions of the current British government was to renege on this commitment.

By this action it removed from the Executive the ability to deliver a capital investment programme in key infrastructural projects which would have had the dual effect of providing much needed employment in the construction industry and bringing our roads, hospitals and schools up to the necessary standard.

The next action of the British government was to cut the Block Grant.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, lads. Because, so far as we can tell, there has been no substantial cut to Northern Ireland’s Block Grant. So how did Gerry and Martin get to £4 Billion? [Plucked from thin air, was it? – Ed] Well, we cannot know for sure.

Added: Pete’s correctly ascribed the cooked figure to Sammy Wilson, Minister for Finance and Personel…

They may be extrapolating (wildly) from the last Labour government’s spending review of 2006, ie the last one before the good times ended and the credit crunch set in. In real terms, the current UK government have imposed a cut of 6.9% on the block grant over three years (and by a quirk of the Varney formula it’s brought us back a useful £900 Mill).

This compares with 19% cuts in all Whitehall departments outside the protected areas of schools, health and overseas aid. So it does look like a case of putting on the poor mouth. 

The Taoiseach was having none of it:

The Deputy is well aware from his long experience of politics in Northern Ireland that every time an issue was raised over the past 30 years, and there have been many, the political process in Northern Ireland went to Downing Street and asked for another cheque to deal with whatever crisis had arisen.

Well, there was that hasty back door exit back in ’08. As for the ‘missing’ money:

With regard to the figures the Deputy mentioned, it has been a while and I do not have the cumulative amounts allocated by the British Government in each year since the Good Friday Agreement. I expect to meet the First and Deputy First Ministers in the not too distant future, and I would be happy to discuss the matters raised by Deputy. I expect the Executive will follow through diligently on this issue with the British Government.

So that would be an ecumenical matter for the Deputy’s own junior colleague (and coincidently, deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland)?


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  • son of sam

    Wonder if Gerry knows what happened to the £26 million from the Northern Bank heist?Must have disappeared into thin air!!

  • Scáth Shéamais

    £4 billion was cut from the Six-County budget as a result of George Osborne’s spending review of October 2010. These cuts were factored into Stormont’s Budget 2011-15, which I believe Sinn Féin voted in favour of.

  • Mick Fealty


    Quite so. So the ‘cut’ here was not a ‘cut’ as such, but a reduction in the projected rise in budgets based on Labour’s 2006 CSR. Something pretty similar would certainly have happened if Labour had retained control of the Exchequer after May 2010.

    NI has barely yet felt the cold that’s blowing in Britain; especially in England and Wales, where local authorities are getting ripped for between 15 and 20% of their annual budgets (see Rach’s piece on closing libraries in Newcastle upon Tyne:…

    The point I sympathise with both parties on is the welfare reform. It’s complex legislation (with enormous costs attached) and hard for a regional administration to unravel.

    Options for ameliorating the worst effects of those reforms are limited too (which is one reason why perhaps cutting welfare in the middle of a recession was not the smartest or most equitable move).

    But frauding up a figure as a cut which is not a cut in real terms and parading it in a parliament that has to cut and cut deeply just to keep the country afloat is not the smartest move either.

  • Mick Fealty

    Whoops… just saw Jeffrey using the sane figure on Wednesday s Nolan…

  • Pete Baker


    It looks like the “global figure” of £4billion originated with the NI Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson.

    I, eventually, found a post on the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010 where we tried to work out how that had been calculated.

    Mark Devenport gave it a go

    According to the Treasury website, we appeared to be doing better than other departments with a cut of only 6.9% in our current budget, the cash used to pay salaries and other recurring costs. [pdf file] This seemed to be the beneficial knock on impact of the ring fencing of health in England and the generous settlement for education.

    But the website revealed that so far as capital spending is concerned (the money used to build roads, hospitals and other public projects) we were taking more of a hit, down 37%.

    So that’s clear then? Well I thought so when the Department of Finance put out different figures, estimating the current revenue cut at 8% and the capital cut at just over 40%. The explanation for this discrepancy is that the Treasury and the Stormont Finance department started their calculations at a different stage – the London arithmetic applied to the figures after the recent emergency budget, the Belfast sums started prior to that reduction.

    Then to confuse matters still more the local Finance Minister Sammy Wilson came up with a global figure of £4 billion – the amount he said we are losing cumulatively over the next four years. This surprised me, as we have all been talking about a £2 billion cut in the run up to this Spending Review. So have we got double the cuts expected?

    Mr Wilson says no – instead the previous Department of Finance briefings were based on the notion that we would be down £2 billion in four years time, not the amount we would lose in total on the way.

    If you understand that get back to me – it doesn’t seem to be borne out by the annual breakdown on the Treasury website.

    And, from the comments zone, Bob Wilson

    In cash terms – for running ‘NI govt’ the Exec will have precisely the same amount of cash.

    Due to inflation however this amounts to about £1.4bn of a ‘cut’ During that time of course a well led Exec could reduce staffing through natural wastage, keep costs down salaries via a pay freeze and seek other effieicnies. So the impact would be fairly minimal

    On the capital side the ’40% cut’ headline amounts to about £300 to 400m a year less to spend. Given Robbo et al decided to freeze regional rates and Conor et al block water charges – which could have filled this gap – it was a tad cheeky to think the Treasury was going to cough up

    So, if I have it correct, the £4billion is arrived at by double, triple, and quadruple counting the ‘year on year’ decrease from a 2009/10 base rate, “in real terms”.

    Hence the actual Resource DEL for NI was scheduled to go from £9.3billion in 2010/11 to £9.5billion in 2014/15.

    The actual Capital DEL for NI was scheduled to go from £1.2billion in 2010/11 to £0.8billion in 2014/15.

    That doesn’t appear to include any Barnett consequentials added to the NI block grant in between…

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Pete. Added to the top now… (quiet in here, innit?)

  • It is no secret that Sinn Fein politicians frequently make false statements of fact in public which they know to be untrue. Political dishonesty is not, of course, unique to Sinn Fein. Remember the “sexed up” dossier and the 45 minute claim relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction before the Iraq war later spun out as misinterpretation by the intelligence services?

    The difference, of course, is that provable lies made by politicians in Northern Ireland never seem to undermine their political support.

    So here is my advice to Sinn Fein. Martin can continue to tell porkies at Stormont but tell Gerry to keep his trap shut when he attends the Dail.