Proposals for reshaping NI Executive departments (12->9), but no word yet of any OFMdFM reform

Northern Ireland Executive logoThe Stormont House Agreement included the commitment:

A reduction in the number of departments from twelve to nine should be made in time for the 2016 Assembly election, with the new allocation of departmental functions to be agreed by the parties.

The BBC’s Gareth Gordon reports tonight on some early suggestions drawn up by the head of the NI Civil Service Malcolm McKibbin.

Mr Robinson revealed to the assembly on Monday that a paper was presented to executive ministers last week. The BBC understands that if there is agreement, the re-shaped Northern Ireland Executive would look like this;

A new department called Economy and Skills would amalgamate the departments of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) and some of Employment and Learning (DEL).

The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Development would draw together the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and some functions of the Department of Environment (DoE).

The remaining DOE functions would go into a new Department of Development and Infrastructure, alongside the current Department of Regional Development (DRD).

Another new department of Social Welfare Communities and Sport would see the current Department of Social Development (DSD) swallowing up the functions of the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) as well of the rest of DEL. [Ed – oddly there was no ‘S’ in DCAL, but it is being singled out in the proposed new department title?]

Other changes would see the Department of Education being renamed the Department of Education and Children, as it take over a range of children’s services currently dispersed among other departments. The health department would become the Department of Health and Well Being.

What isn’t yet clear is whether the proposals will extend to reshaping the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister, and creating a slimmed-down Cabinet Office-style department. The 300-employee strong department is often criticised for keeping so many functions outside the rest of the department structure, and the constant need to get both FM and dFM staff and parties to agree policies and statements drastically slows down decision making.

Delegating many of its responsibilities – and staff – to other departments would speed up delivery and prevent so many issues becoming log-jammed. And ‘contentious’ decisions could still be brought to the Executive, allowing Sinn Fein and the DUP to exercise their veto if necessary.

The reduction in departments will also reduce the number of committee chairs and deputy chairs, making those positions more competitive amongst talented MLAs.

Some of the new department names are more than a mouthful, though unfortunate acronyms have been avoided. Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Development is not DREAD, though DAERD has a medieval or Norse feel if spelt DÆRD! And should that not be the Department of the Outdoors, or Department of Fresh Air?

Perhaps Slugger readers could help the Executive and NI Civil Service along with some suggestions that are snappier or better explain the function of the proposed departments. [Ed – negative and rude suggestions will be moderated!]

  • Maybe the cryptic Department of Development and Infrastructure should be the Department of Building Things and Going Places?
  • The Department of Social Welfare Communities and Sport could be the Department of Living Well [Ed – & Culture!]
  • And the Department of Economy and Skills could surely be the Department of Talents (reflecting the New Testament parable) with two arms: developing talents, and generating talents.

Over to you!

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  • Dan

    The Department of Social Welfare Communities and Sport

    ..department of sitting on your arse doing nothing and getting up off your arse and doing something

  • Practically_Family

    I have a suggestion for a cut.

    Let’s cut the number of MLAs from 108 to 23. Two from each super council and a spare voted for by the entire population.

    Each MLA may employ a secretary, each party represented may empoy a chargé d’affaires.

    No SPADs. No other publically funded posts.

  • Deke Thornton

    Where does Further and Higher Education go?

  • New Yorker

    It is inappropriate for civil service to make any suggestions because they are an interested party. This is a classic case of conflict of interest.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I assume Economy and Skills.

  • chrisjones2

    OFMDFM will halve its 16 SPADs – as the poor dears are so committed this will involve cutting their working week from the current 80 hours to just 40., They will then qualify for a 10% productivity bonus Due to cuts staff will have no time to answer any impertinent FOI Questions on this

  • chrisjones2

    A new Department for Community Restoration and Peace will be established. It will look after all really difficult issues that cannot be resolved elsewhere.

    It will have an Alliance MInister so MLAs can have fun with the name and play at bear baiting in the Chamber

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t know why you think gerrymandering will save money. For one thing Belfast City Council is twice the size of North Down and Ards.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sixteen? Here was me being shocked it was Eight, but they must be giving the junior ministers four each. To be fair, those junior ministers should go too.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yes it must be really hard bringing communities together in North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh, those boys up in Ardoyne and Twadell don’t know how lucky they are.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Belguim’s kamikaze coalition has a Francophone/Wallonian Prime Minister running a government mainly made up of Flemish politicians … could making Mike Nesbitt sole first minister in a coalition with Alliance, Sinn Féin and the SDLP be the way to get rid of the DUP?

  • Reader

    And North Down and Ards is twice the size of Mid-Ulster.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Obviously I mean in terms of population not in terms of area.

  • Kevin Breslin

    where do the working poor on benefits or those with real disabilities come in your analysis?

  • chrisjones2

    I believe its 8 each

    Theres a lot to fight over

  • chrisjones2

    Look at the title of the Department

  • chrisjones2

    Hell or Connaught?

  • Kevin Breslin

    No no no … Four for the First Minister, Four for the Deputy First Minister, four for the First Minister’s junior minister and four for the Deputy First Minister’s junior minister.

  • chrisjones2

    Geography 1.1 Lots of people live in Cities. Thats why we call them cities

    But the division into councils is finely calculate to meet local needs ie ensure that there is a fair share of local fiefdoms where one side of the other dominates, where they can pretend that themuns don’t exist, fly the Union flag 365 days a year and name children’s playgrounds after murderers

  • Kevin Breslin

    SDLP/UUP/Alliance have 35 MLAs 4 ministries, 4 SPADs, 0 junior minister.

    Sinn Féin 29 MLAs, 4 ministers, 7 SPADs, 1 junior minister.
    DUP 38 MLAs, 6 ministers, 9 SPADs, 1 junior minister.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t buy this crap.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Now come on, you totally forget pragmatics … take Jim Wells for example he’s so insecure with his marginal South Down seat he’s doing deals with the gay Dublin health minister to secure enough nationalist transfers to stay in power.

  • chrisjones2

    You dont have to. In any case Stormont is full of it

  • chrisjones2

    And why shouldn’t he.

    Exchanging some (non screened ) gay blood would be a good idea too. If only to fully demonstrate the nonsense and bias of the policy that was in force.

    I just don’t understand though. I know this iis OT here but why are the duppers so afraid of gays – or rather of gay men? Gay women don’t seem to provoke the same reaction. Its not as though some DUP MLAs dont seem to enjoy gay DVDs or dont have gay men in their families – they clearly do.

    But mention it and its like a snake cornered by a mongoose. They hate Gay Men more than they do Travellers

    So why?

  • Kevin Breslin

    To be fair it wasn’t the DUP but the Conservative government minister Norman Fowler who introduced the law and two local previous non-DUP health ministers were happy to continue with it based on the risk factor analysis assumptions at the time.

    No one has really been able to explain to the DUP that the evidence available has changed our interpretation of the risk available, and the pro-life thing to do would be to let people who have had a rare infrequent homosexual act provide blood when 95% of our population won’t. Statistically a person has a better chance of surving with infected plasma than none at all. Statistically few people engaging in the rare act of male on male sexual intercourse will pick up an STD.

    Naturally the media are concerned about the 300-3000 souls who are being denied the chance to be generous, even though most of those in the media like the rest of any occupation within NI won’t give blood themselves. The DUP are happy enough to take blood from any sinner so long as there’s no possibility it may be infected by a transmissible disease, so when they hear about the low AIDS risk naturally they’ve broken out the long pathological database and see if the risks of every other infection that can be potentially transmitted homosexual intercourse is also eliminated …

    Nothing to do with religion, After all as it says in Levitus 17:11

    For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.


  • Reader

    So do I.

  • why stop at 9?

  • Gingray

    Was wondering that myself. Previously DE, but not clearly stipulated this time out