“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 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)?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty