Comprehensive Spending Review offers to cut Northern Ireland’s budget by a mere 2%…

Odd things Comprehensive Spending Reviews. They are more a statement of intent, than a finalised corporate plan. Thus it is an entirely political decision as to when they are timed. From the Guardian’s round up of George Osborne’s Review (applicable in the first term of the next government, if the coalition are re-elected), here’s the headline figures for the devolved Assemblies/Parliament:

The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are required to find resource savings of 2%, with a budget for Scotland of £25.7bn, Wales £13.6bn and Northern Ireland £9.6bn. The Scotland, Wales and NI offices in London are required to find savings of 10%. New capital borrowing powers of almost £300m for Scotland and an additional £31m to help Police Service of Northern Ireland tackle terrorism.

Compare that to the real victims in this spending review, the Communities Department (which is a Whitehall euphamism for local councils):

Local government department has been reduced by 60% – Eric Pickles is “the model of lean government”. He has agreed to another 10% reduction in resource budget. The council tax freeze, due to come to an end next April, will be extended for the next two years.

That’s in part because councils are slowly being stripped of infrastructural role in the educational sector and the severe curtailment of council involvement in funding small scale civic society enterprises. But it was always easier to squeeze council funding who will be directly blamed for a loss of services rather than Whitehall.

This promised 2 per cent cut in grants to devolved administrations may well be conditioned by the need to win next year’s referendum in Scotland… At least Scotland’s bonus is an increased ability to raise money privately, we’re just getting a bung to keep the Cops upstanding.

The other relevant change that will likely have a knock on effect on NI budgets:

Department for Work and Pensions is committed to 9.5% savings in running costs. A welfare cap will be set each year at the budget for four years, as a cash sum. When the government is forecast to breach the cap, the Office for Budget Responsibility will issue a warning

The only clear winners? A 3.4% increase in the intelligence services budget.

Adds: Oh, and there is this

…the Northern Ireland Executive’s capital budget for 2015-16 will increase by 3.3% in cash terms to £1.1bn (1.5% in real terms)

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  • cynic2

    “3.4% increase in the intelligence services budget”

    …..to cover their legal costs from Cablegate?

  • thethoughtfulone

    The civil service pay thing is critical.

    While we are told that civil service pay is capped at 1 or whatever percent, that is actually a cap on pay within the grades. According to a report done a while ago by the excellent Paul Mason, the true cost of civil service pay was actually rising at a rate somewhere between 9 and 10 percent and given the size of our civil service was actually one of the biggest factors hindering them from getting a true grip on the countries finances.

    Be a hard job to make it stick though as they’re also just about the only sector in the economy left with a strong union representation.

    Could get ugly!

  • Morpheus

    It needs to get ugly. In 2010/2011 Northern Ireland generated £12.7b but it cost £23.2b to run the place – something has to give.

    Northern Ireland did remarkably well with just a 2% reduction. According to HM Treasury (PDF) in 2011/2012 we have a public expenditure of £10,624 per head compared to just £8,491 per head in England. To get to the same levels as the English (who are funding us, let’s be honest) we would need a 25% reduction so we should be thankful for just a 2% reduction really.

  • Mick Fealty

    Have you a link? Considering these are early manifesto promises, it’s a clever battleground choice… Unions will be forced into action and Labour will have to make a tough choice on whether to block or support an apparently unearned pay rise when real incomes are falling in most other places.

    Making it actually happen is another matter… You have to rip contracts of employment, and if you don’t do that then you are talking about anything like the number of savings…

  • cynic2

    Its not just the money. Having been a civil servant its the entire culture that flows from it

    You can get one member of staff on say 15 years service cruising along and getting thousands more than a more junior employee who may be faster brighter and better. Its a complete disincentive and a nightmare for equal pay.

    So how are they going to unwind all this in a way that’s fair and doesn’t lock the more junior into the lower pay. Just watch the fun> Another legal bonanza

  • ayeYerMa

    ‘Eric Pickles is “the model of lean government”.’

    😀 😀 😀

  • DC

    @morpheus

    The British government will see to it that the regions, the peripheries will have to make 33% cuts as what is happening in England, it’s just to manage it strategically it is carrying out 33% cuts faster in England over say 6-7 years that will ultimately take 15 years for places like Northern Ireland.

    2% year on year on year – we will get there in the end.

    The strategy the same re making those cuts consistently across the board, the tactics more subtle and adjusted / adjustable.

    Basically the British government is astute enough to know not to have to fight on loads of fronts i.e. the regions.

    It’s also about cohesion and limiting the impact of the recession using the boiled frog approach, boiled frog for the regions and extreme speedy cuts for England and Wales, digest the fallout from England and Wales first and get it over with before having to deal with the fallout from the disgruntled regions.

  • DougtheDug

    Mick, has the spending review given Scotland and NI an increase in spending relative to England?

    Usually both NI and Scotland are funded by the use of the Barnett formula which takes the English spend as a baseline and works out what Scotland and England gets from that.

    In other words have the Barnett differentials between Scotland and England and Northern Ireland and England increased under this spending review?

    It’s not clear from this article.

  • DougtheDug

    Typo in the second paragraph .

    …and works out what Scotland and Northern Ireland gets from that.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good grief, these (Brits, Stormont, etc) are the people who have just given plenary powers over really important planning decisions into the hands of two men! Of course they can simply tear up the civil service agreements, if they have the will to do it and the guns to enforce it. The one thing that the GFA has shown us all is that silk purses can be made out of sows ears just like that.

    However, it may be impossible to run anything at all in the province without a civil service, but when has that stopped them……