‘Stormont House’ deal demonstrates how limited compromises bring limited wins…

I’ll leave some of the detail to others to pick through, so some quick (very quick) on the hoof reactions.

  1. Sinn Fein (and the SDLP) have pretty much swallowed the Tory austerity agenda whole, and with barely a backward glance to their previous [Unsustainable? – Ed] anti reform agenda. The £1.9 million is recouped mostly from increased loan limits, one-off land sales and the wholesale raiding of capital budgets.  Cameron has barely moved on the compensating package. The fines accrued from delayed implementation will still have to be paid.
  2. Most of the legacy stuff looks like another promissory note.  £30m per year for five years to pay for the institutions to help deal with the past was, I think, already promised. Much of the rest is yet another half made bed, which Cameron was either unable or unwilling to force as an issue for cash returns. The Oral History project looks like the most concrete (and possibly the most sustainable) of the proposals.
  3. The additional £350m of borrowing is to help cover the hole left by having to raid capital budgets in order to pay for voluntary redundancies. The Financial Annex rather caustically notes that “Whitehall departments have been expected to deliver equivalent schemes from their current expenditure”.
  4. Where there has been real progress is the review of the way Stormont works. The plan for MLAs to be cut to five per constituency will be popular. Section 59 creates a space for opposition parties with provision for financial and research, and speaking rights guaranteed. Section 61 suggests time be set aside after elections for parties meet to resolve a draft Programme for Government before taking office as ministers.
  5. Corporation Tax was expected. As will the inevitable cut in the block grant. Whether it gets past any future Labour Government remains to be seen. There’s even a promise of more, “including Aggregates Levy, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax”.

All of these measures depend for action on the Executive resolving a sustainable fiscal plan by April next year.

They are interesting for just how little appears to have shifted in the negotiation process. On Welfare, this is pretty much the deal which Gerry rejected, and it appears to have brought him nothing in return.

As I’ve argued before under our rigid system there is no win available without serious compromise. The more limited the compromise, the more limited the win. Not losing sight of the advantage of getting some good work done, the deal smacks of poor strategic vision.

And we now know why no one was keen to break silence around the negotiations.

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