Welfare Reform: Are the SDLP showing real policy leadership or just grandstanding?

Welfare Reform, austerity, cuts and Tories-these are the words of the day at Stormont. Here are some of the pictures doing the rounds from the SDLP about the Welfare Reform bill

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A full list of the amendments to the Welfare Reform bill can be found here

Then the SDLP put this out there

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Arguments for SDLP position:

  1. They are honouring a position set out to oppose the initial opposition for Welfare Reform.
  2. The party are seeking to actually have a debate on the issue, whilst the Petition of Concern will halt any real changes to the bill.
  3. Is there a certain ideological consistency in their position that could be outlined within a broader centre-left movement.
  4. Does the deal really reform welfare? Is there enough in the proposals to actually allow those on welfare to be able to find work and a better standard of living?
  5. Assessments- A often repeated comment today in Stormont was the impact of the controversial assessment system in the rest of the UK. Is it not worth taking another look?

Arguments against SDLP position;

  1. They signed up to the Stormont House Agreement which brought this bill to the Assembly in the first place.
  2. Why now? Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy made the point in Stormont should the party not have presented these amendments sooner, rather than later?
  3. Is there an alternative? The NI Executive doesn’t exist in isolation from Westminster, is there a real departure within the SDLP proposals.
  4. Political sensibility-I keep coming back to big changes such as this and yet the party is still in the Executive and remains there despite disagreements over huge issues.
  5. Fiscal sensibility- We have already lost millions of pounds, the more we delay against a government that is patently not interested in listening, is it not responsible to halt the fines.
  6. Breathing space- This deal allows £500 million from within the block grant to mitigate some of the aspects of Welfare Reform which can help buy time to deal with some challenges (I appreciate this can also be called kicking the can down the road)
  7. The debate focused mostly on the placement of the Petition of Concern with some neglect of the amendments that were placed by them.

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  • Ernekid

    Why is the SDLP still in the Executive then? They keep trying to have their cake and eat it leading to totally muddled thinking.

    The welfare reform well has long been drained of any political capital, I don’t think the SDLP will gain anything politically from this, especially as their leadership is weak on every other major issue.

  • Tacapall

    “As I have consistently said for five years, the SDLP should stop listening to advice from other Parties and do our own thing”

    They certainly dont listen to the people they claim to represent and doing their own thing is part and parcel of a political party that scrambles around in the dark searching for any scraps of political opportunism that they hope would fool the electorate into believing their party is anything other than an instrument of British manipulation.

    Roll on electioneering time when the SDLP have to face the people.

  • Kevin Breslin

    David, this is about regulations on the implementation of welfare reform, not the implementation of welfare reform which is a given.

    I count that the DUP minister for Social Development has submitted 20 odd amendments too.

    No one is calling for Mervin Storey to leave the Executive with Mark H Durkan and Danny Kennedy!

  • mickfealty

    I’d agree with John Mooney, who’s contribution slightly mashes a number of points you’ve made against the SDLP. Point one asserts that the party signed up to the Stormont House Agreement. Did I miss something here? When was that exactly?

    Conor Murphy might well have wanted this dirty linen washed in-house, but he offers no evidence that the SDLP could have tabled these amendments any earlier. This was the only time it could be done. So, make of that what you will.

    I think point four is questionable too, since only Ministers are bound by the Ministerial code. Parties are free to table amendments as they wish. Now, I take the point that that may be difficult for the electorate to square, but nevertheless it’s weak objection.

    Now, fiscal sensibility. Ha ha. Just to be clear, these are not fines as such, they are extra costs incurred in not implementing the reforms earlier. Now since the long stasis which occasioned those extra costs originated inside OFMdFM, I think we can safely let the poor old SDLP off the hook for that one.

    And just a question, the 500 million, where does that come from? Is it a PA figure, or a one off?

    On the pro side, 4-5 are questions rather than arguments in favour (three is close to the same). But that said, I suppose the thing they could take on the doorstep in May is the the cap on benefit maximum allowances, and the bedroom tax which Martin vowed to get rid of.

    The weakness is that they got closed out. Although that could be a strength, I’m sceptical about their capacity to market it as such. Still, the day there is nothing in democratic politics for, as John puts it, ‘doing the right thing’ is a poor one for democracy.

    Fudge is good for incumbents (did SF even vote in the DUP’s petition of concern motion?) but not for would be insurgent parties like SDLP.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Arguments against SDLP position;

    They signed up to the Stormont House Agreement which brought this bill to the Assembly in the first place.

    This is not about Stormont House but regulations in Welfare Reform

    Why now? Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy made the point in Stormont should the party not have presented these amendments sooner, rather than later?

    This is when the legislation is being passed through the Assembly, the time when amendments can be added to a bill. Have the DUP explained how any of the SDLP/UUP or even Green Party amendments on implementation depart from parity with the UK?

    Better question, if the DUP and SF want to pass it through without amendments why put the legislation through the Assembly at all? Also why did the DUP minister make 20 odd amendments himself, and the Chairman of the Committee none?

    Is there an alternative? The NI Executive doesn’t exist in isolation from Westminster, is there a real departure within the SDLP proposals.

    The NI Executive doesn’t exist in isolation from the Assembly and there is no real departure within the SDLP proposals.

    Political sensibility-I keep coming back to big changes such as this and yet the party is still in the Executive and remains there despite disagreements over huge issues.

    Is it abnormal for a government party to make amendments to government’s legislation?

    Are they really big changes? These changes deal with specific details on implementation.

    Fiscal sensibility- We have already lost millions of pounds, the more we delay against a government that is patently not interested in listening, is it not responsible to halt the fines.

    Fiscal cost of many of these regulations is zero.

    Amendment 4

    New Clause

    After clause 6 insert –

    ‘Provision of Claimant Documentation

    6B. Regulations must provide, if a claimant is unable to provide documentation required to process a claim, for the information to be provided by prescribed third parties to enable the claim to be processed.’

    Mrs Dolores Kelly

    Mr Alex Attwood

    Mr Alban Maginness

    Mr Pat Ramsey

    The English welfare system allows third party involvement for ‘Provision of Claimant Documentation … it’s probably a breach or parity not to include it.

    Breathing space- This deal allows £500 million from within the block grant to mitigate some of the aspects of Welfare Reform which can help buy time to deal with some challenges (I appreciate this can also be called kicking the can down the road)

    How £500 million is to be used is part of the legislation, and mitigating terms should be made at this stage of the bill, … for all we know instead of using these mitigating funds in helping the mentally ill it will be used to prop up the Social Investment funds for DUP and Sinn Féin special interests.

    The debate focused mostly on the placement of the Petition of Concern with some neglect of the amendments that were placed by them.

    As it should, had Sinn Féin backed the DUP all the way you’d have a normal passing majority even without the PoC.

  • Martin McAuley

    A number of things jump out at me from the arguments against the SDLP position.

    1) ‘They signed up to the Stormont House Agreement’ – there is no agreement, there is a set of proposals made by the British/Irish Governments at the end of a period of intense negotiation. The SDLP at no point signed up to it. Rather, the party said it would implement the elements in those proposals that are strong and improve those that are weak.

    2) ‘Conor Murphy made the point in Stormont should the party not have presented these amendments sooner, rather than later’ – The SDLP shared amendments with the Stormont House implementation group. The DUP and SF clearly sought a veto in that group over amendments they don’t like. For any party to sacrifice its mandate and right to make amendments on the floor of the assembly is a dereliction of the people they represent. Why should the SDLP, a centre-left party, give a veto to the DUP, a far right party, on social welfare policy? Conor is spinning as hard as he can.

    4) ‘I keep coming back to big changes such as this and yet the party is still in the Executive and remains there despite disagreements over huge issues’ – This was dealt with outside the Executive. Even if the SDLP left the Executive, the DUP has made clear they will shut down any attempt to legitimately put this to a vote. Steven Agnew is essentially in opposition and found himself a victim of the same anti-democratic strop.

    5) ‘We have already lost millions of pounds, the more we delay against a government that is patently not interested in listening, is it not responsible to halt the fines’ The British Government is using the fines as a weapon. Make no mistake, if the Tories get back in after May they plan to do so much worse. Look at the ‘charter for fiscal responsibility’. It paves the way for £30 billion more cuts. If we don’t lay down a marker now resisting that approach, then we’ll be on the receiving end of the same bullying in a few months.

    7) ‘The debate focused mostly on the placement of the Petition of Concern with some neglect of the amendments that were placed by them.’ Some parties don’t want to debate the detail because it shows them up as Tory lap dogs. And bear in mind we’re 6 hours in but only a third of the way there. A long way to go yet!

    The fact of the matter is that the SDLP is sticking to its guns on this. Other parties have serious questions to answer- why has the DUP blocked every reasoned amendment? Do they oppose the objectives (protecting victims of hate crime, young people with disabilities, those with mental health problems). Why did Alliance withdraw their amendments after SF and the DUP turned the screw a bit? Why has Sinn Féin absolutely capitulated to the DUP on this? And why have they refused to block the bedroom tax when they made a specific commitment to table a petition of concern? That’s a key commitment that they’ve U-turned on.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The fact of the matter is that the SDLP is sticking to its guns on this.

    Of course they are, and why not ? It’s easy to make proposals for reform that you know you are never going to be called up on.

  • Tacapall

    Like I said before your party, the SDLP, is foolish enough to believe they even make a difference at Westminster, Sinn Fein’s part in the Welfare reform is to implement British policy in Ireland, your party not only plays its part in implementing British policy, your party also helps the British government formulate British policy in Ireland by playing footsie with them at Westminster. Honestly can you say with hand on heart that SDLP politicians are anything other than opportunists who’s careers and the financial benefits that come with being a politician come first before they act in the interests of the Irish people. Its only a matter of time before the nationalist electorate realise they are wasting their time and energy having anything to do with British politics.

  • Arguments against SDLP position;

    1. They signed up to the Stormont House Agreement which brought this bill to the Assembly in the first place.

    Really, David?

    Because I recall you pointing out that [10 Jan 2015]

    Interesting story in the Irish News that the [SDLP] will not fully ratify the Stormont House Agreement. The party has reservations about the silence of the agreement on issues such as the Bill of Rights and the Irish Language Act. In addition to this, while the party recognises progress on Welfare Reform it still wants to more done to protect those in need.

    Archives can be very useful things, you know. You just have to use them.

    But if you are going to play at the soap opera game, better to give us the source.

    Here’s Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness

    “The SDLP dissidents are clearly now in charge of the party and are prepared to risk the collapse of the Stormont House Agreement – and thereby the power-sharing institutions themselves – for the sake of party political grandstanding.

    “If Sinn Féin had taken the approach advocated by the SDLP in relation to the Welfare Bill and the budget, there would be no agreement and no power sharing institutions. What we would have is Direct Rule by the Tories and all that would mean in terms of austerity, welfare cuts and water charges.

    And the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell’s response

    “The comments by Martin McGuinness show that he and his party are rattled.

    “On the one hand, Gerry Adams announces that he wants to lead an anti-austerity government in the South, while Martin McGuinness tells us an austerity budget in the North is ‘the best deal possible’.

    “Martin McGuinness told his Ard Fheis that Sinn Féin would table a petition of concern on the bedroom tax in the future. Today, Sinn Féin refused to sign a petition of concern on the bedroom tax.

    “Last week, the SDLP concluded negotiations and led on the National Crime Agency. Sinn Féin were shown to be out of their depth and out of touch with people.

    “I have made it clear that the SDLP will work hard to fully and faithfully implement strong elements of the Stormont House negotiations and work hard to improve its weak elements. The party has said that it reserves the right to table amendments to any part of the Stormont House proposals, including some of its proposals on addressing the past which would deny truth and accountability.

  • Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy made the point in Stormont should the party not have presented these amendments sooner, rather than later?

    Has Conor been co-opted back into the Assembly?
    But it’s the Consideration Stage of the Bill. Where else would you introduce amendments to that Bill? In private?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It’s certainly very encouraging to hear the SDLP and their supporters arguing that we should resist parity, that the assembly should do things by itself, and that it’s terrible that the DUP are using all kinds of dodgy mechanisms to stop the Assembly from having it’s say.

    I was about to congratulate the SDLP for their stand, but then I found myself casting my mind back to the Welfare Reform Bill of 2007, when a certain Minister (Margaret Ritchie), who I think might these days enjoy profile as an SDLP MP, was in charge of the Department of Social Development.

    I was about to try to explain to the Slugger readership the rationale behind maintaining parity, but the SDLP Minister did a much better job than I could have. When introducing the bill here she succinctly explained :

    Section 87 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 recognises the long-established principle of parity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on social security. I acknowledge that the parity principle is, to some extent, frustrating to an Assembly that is keen to pass its own laws and form its own policies. However, the Northern Ireland social security system is not self-financing. The cost of paying benefits in Northern Ireland is subsidised heavily by Great Britain.

    For example, in 2005-06, to meet its benefit obligations, the Northern Ireland National Insurance fund needed a transfer of £185 million from the Great Britain National Insurance fund. In the same period, expenditure on non-contributory benefits, which are demand led and financed from taxation revenue, was more than £2·26 billion. The funding depends on parity. Therefore, when Members ask what reason we have for maintaining parity, the answer is that there is approximately £2·4 billion worth of reasons.

    Very well put.

    Shortly after the Minister introduced the bill she laid before the assembly a proposal that it be granted accelerated passage. see here.

    The accelerated passage procedure allows the bill to proceed through the assembly without proper analysis by the Committee. Fra McCann explained that the Committee assented to the accelerated passage procedure being used because there were threats that benefits would be cut if this did not happen.

    It would be perhaps mischevious to comment on whether the SDLP’s abandonment of support for using such measures to push legislation quickly through the assembly is in any way related to the fact that the office is no longer occupied by one of their ministers.

    In any case, the the Welfare Reform Bill enjoyed the support of the Minister and her party colleagues. In a later debate she gave the bill gave parity her wholehearted backing despite the fact that significant parts of the 2007 Act were involved with trying to push disabled people into work.

    You can see from Hansard in 2007 that many SDLP MLAs stood up to urge support for the Bill. Alban Maginness explained parity carefully :

    Most of us in the Chamber would prefer to legislate for social welfare ourselves, and we might make a better job of it, going by the interesting ideas that have been introduced this morning. However, that is not possible because the need for parity has been accepted, and that will continue indefinitely.

    The SDLP accepts the financial realities. A figure of £2·5 billion was quoted as being spent on benefits in Northern Ireland. That is a huge amount of money; however, as we must maintain parity, we have little option but to accept the legislation.

    I take it, from the SDLP’s abandonment today of the understanding of the “need for parity”, it means that they no longer “accept the financial realities” and believe that there is an “option but to accept the legislation” ? Perhaps one of their supporters here would be kind enough to explain what that option is.

    Alban goes on to note :

    As with most legislation, there are good things and bad; however, the main thrust is good.

    Another pragmatic perspective that the SDLP have abandoned.

    He adds :

    If we are going to make economically active those who are inactive — and not all of them are benefit recipients, though they are a goodly number — then we have to employ new means of encouraging people to work

    Very well put Alban, and I’m sure Iain Duncan Smith would be proud if he had said that himself.

    I will finish with Margaret Ritchie’s comment during her summation :

    Those points must be made. Some Members have used their misconceptions about the Welfare Reform Bill for party political coat-trailing purposes.

    Quite.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The British Government is using the fines as a weapon. Make no mistake, if the Tories get back in after May they plan to do so much worse.

    During the debate for the Welfare Reform Bill in 2007 the SDLP Minister Margaret Ritchie used the threat that welfare claimants mind find themselves going unpaid as justification for pushing the bill through the assembly by accelerated passage. This prevented the bill from being properly examined by the Social Development Committee.

    The fact of the matter is that the SDLP is sticking to its guns on this.

    Having occupied the role of DSD Minister in the past, the SDLP and its MLAs know full well the limitations that the need to maintain parity places on the Assembly legislating over welfare reform. This is a pathetic piece of politicking in the run up to an election and the SDLP know it.

  • chrisjones2

    SDLP showing policy? Leadership?

  • hugh mccloy
  • barnshee

    There in no more money
    Divide it up as much as you like there is no more
    If you pay Paul Peter will have to do with less

    Spoiled children squabbling over sweeties

  • David McCann

    Just for clarity I wrote the post before those statements where issued.

  • Then you should have waited, and/or thought about it more. And you didn’t write it before your post on 10 Jan. Did you forget?

  • David McCann

    I was simply looking for what I call a “debate piece” on it. Hence the question mark in the title and the both sides of the argument laid out.

    The type of response akin to Catchers was what I wanted.

    The SDLP/SF shouting match can be caught on most news bulletins. I wanted the debate

    On the SHA issue, I was referring to your statements of MMG/AD today. On your wider point (I should’ve been clearer, slap deserved and taken) what I meant was being clearer at the time of the agreement being made and the overall statement, as you;ll note from the comments below that post it is not a particularly clear message from the SDLP.

    I take John Mooney’s point about getting clear blue water between the party and SF, perhaps this is the best way of doing it. Ultimately May will see if it’s a winning strategy for the party.

  • I was simply looking for what I call a “debate piece” on it. Hence the question mark in the title and the both sides of the argument laid out.

    As I said, playing at the soap opera game… You should try thinking about it. You might have remembered your previous post.

    The type of response akin to Catchers was what I wanted.

    The SDLP/SF shouting match can be caught on most news bulletins. I wanted the debate

    The one he liked himself? Catchers is not engaging in this debate, he’s distracting from it.
    All you’ve done in the post is replicate the ‘shouting match’ with talking points. Where you got those from is your business.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The SDLP being completely hypocritical on this subject is surely the point.

    Parity means that we can’t sensibly debate welfare reform in the assembly and that this entire process going on at the moment is a sham. It’s local politicians doing what they do best in councils and debating chambers all over the country – arguing about things that they have no control over.

    The SDLP are doubling down on this by suggesting that amendments are possible – even though they know, from their own stand when their own Minister had to do it – that it isn’t. It’s a circus. Steven Agnew gets off because he wasn’t in the assembly the last time.

  • Stewart

    Chief Executive of NICVA Seamus McAleavey said on the UTV last night that he was pleased with the agreement as it protected the most vulnerable

  • Old Mortality

    Oh dear!
    That sounds ominous. In other words ,he doesn’t think there’ll be any reform worth the name because aren’t all benefit claimants ‘vulnerable’? Or is there a ‘hierarchy of vulnerability’?

  • Practically_Family

    Of all mentioned, or not mentioned in regard to benefit cuts in NI, I find this, taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-31171934 by far the most interesting, or at least potentially so.

    “Seventy-eight amendments have been tabled to the Welfare Reform Bill
    and they include the establishment of a discretionary support scheme
    that would help those who would lose benefits under Westminster welfare
    reforms.
    The amendment states this is “not to be regarded as a social security benefit ”

    This would be overseen by a discretionary support commissioner and a series of inspectors.””

  • Tacapall

    Yes isn’t it great that the British government allow you to.

  • Mick

    And just a question, the 500 million, where does that come from? Is it a PA figure, or a one off?

    The latest BBC report on the ongoing debate notes of the still-undefined support schemes.

    In the current financial year, £27m has been set aside to support people disadvantaged by welfare changes.

    Sinn Féin say that sum will rise to £565m over the next six years.

    It is understood this estimate refers to the resources that will be made available across all the new schemes, rather than one distinct fund.

  • Tacapall

    No, why would any Irish person want to vote in a British election why would any Irish person even give legitimacy to Britain having any say in Irish politics.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SDLP never stopped parity when they held the Social Development ministry, and the fact is Stormont House we were told was there to resist parity, to ensure the implementation of Stormont House went correctly, not just smoothly. This is not Westminster drafted legislation, but Stormont legislation.

    If the Executive and particularly OFMDFM does these sort of power grabs the only effective opposition would be legal opposition, and that legal opposition will becoming from the welfare claimants themselves who have seen no provision made for the mitigation funds at this draft bill stage.

    I would wonder if David McCann’s Fianna Fáil would walk out on Sinn Féin’s regulations and amendments if they were in government together. I’d have thought Sinn Féin might leave Fianna Fáil to be the “nasty party” in a similar role they do with the DUP, but to be honest I really don’t know who’d be the wallflower in that relationship.

  • Tacapall

    Sometimes the majority not taking part in politics sends a bigger message than the result of an election especially when the majority of those who took no part are opposed to the politics of those who took part.

    What do I do, well I sit here and watch Irish people make the same mistake as those Irish people throughout the centuries before them who also believed being involved in British politics would bring about Irish unity.

  • Tacapall

    Imagine if every Irish person in this part of Ireland refused to engage in British politics what message would that send to the British government ?

  • Tacapall

    Agreed path, interesting choice of words for – We can have a referendum but only when our British overlord allows us to, and only when she/he believes there is a realistic chance of a positive result.
    Seriously, what happens when the British, like they are doing now, flood the country with immigrants from former colonies, who do you think these immigrants would vote for in any future referendum ?

  • Tacapall

    So that united Ireland the pay per view SDLP is fighting for is that a dream or an idea.

  • Tacapall

    Isn’t the truth always hidden in plain sight, it would be easier and quicker to get the majority to not take part in British elections than it would be to jump through the hoops set up by the British. People no longer trust politicians, especially those who get paid lots of money. Why in the world would they want to change the status quo when the status quo provides the finances that keep them in the opulent lifestyles they and their families live in.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I have had some difficulty understanding what your point is above, having re-read it several times, but I will have a go. Hopefully I haven’t misunderstood you.

    Firstly, you say “the fact is Stormont House, we were told, was there to resist parity” (punctuation added by me). I don’t know who told you that, I’ve certainly never seen it suggested. The Stormont House agreement, if anything, is an acceptance that there is no alternative to parity.

    This is not Westminster drafted legislation, but Stormont legislation.

    As the SDLP well know from their experience when they passed the Welfare Reform Bill 2007, the legislation written in Stormont is more or less a word-for-word copy of the Westminster legislation, as it is intended to give effect to the same regime.

    If the Executive and particularly OFMDFM does these sort of power grabs

    But it isn’t a power grab, and the SDLP know this from 2007. The commitment to parity by the Executive means that the Assembly must pass this legislation. There is little point in debating it unless there is an intention to end the parity policy.

    and that legal opposition will becoming from the welfare claimants themselves who have seen no provision made for the mitigation funds at this draft bill stage.

    Whether this is true or not, the fact is that as Margaret Ritchie explained in 2007, parity has to be maintained otherwise we will lose subsidies from London.

    I would wonder if David McCann’s Fianna Fáil would walk out on Sinn Féin’s regulations and amendments if they were in government together.

    Having failed to address the message you are now shooting the messenger.

    The choice is straightforward – implement parity or implement a significant cut to the block grant. The SDLP are trying to pretend there is a choice, even though their own words in 2007 show that there is no choice. If the SDLP were in power they would do the same thing that they did in 2007 – force the bill through the assembly using accelerated passage, and have their MLAs clap their minister on while doing it.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    No point in commentators complaining about SDLP not having “a unique selling point” and then complaining that any issue is merely a gimmick.

    The gimmick in this case is proposing a bunch of spurious amendments that the SDLP know, from their own experience when in charge of the same department, cannot be passed.

    The other gimmick is suggesting that we can end parity without explaining how the funding shortfall could be addressed. According to the SDLP Minister in 2007, the funding shortfall without parity at that time was £2.4 billion.

    In terms of political strategy, what the SDLP are doing is picking up a strategy that Sinn Féin were forced to abandon for two years. Whatever can be said about SF, it’s likely that their voters trust them enough to believe that, if they abandoned this after so much resistance, it must have been for a good reason.

    When you add this to the fact that most voters are fairly savvy and are aware when politicians are making uncosted proposals about departments they have no control over, are aware that the SDLP’s sister party in England is committed to the welfare reform regime, and are aware that the SDLP are not making a manifesto commitment to acquire the DSD department under d’Hondt in 2016 and reverse the changes – it starts to look more like they are hoping the voters out there are really stupid.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Stormont House implements a parity arrangement but finances the differences from cuts to public services, was it wrong with deciding, committing financing mechanisms from this fund. It would be a deceitful farce by the DUP and SF, a farce to their own MLAs not to ring fence the additional assistance before implementing the reform. We are told about politicians making hard decisions, but it is very easy to be negligent, to put mitigation measures on the long finger. Public services have been cut for the social security of vulnerable, it would be a shame if this is merely treated like a windfall for the public finances.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Stormont House implements a parity arrangement but finances the differences from cuts to public services, was it wrong with deciding, committing financing mechanisms from this fund.

    What are you suggesting should have been done instead ?

    a farce to their own MLAs not to ring fence the additional assistance before implementing the reform

    That would have required breaching parity.

    Public services have been cut for the social security of vulnerable, it would be a shame if this is merely treated like a windfall for the public finances.

    er .. what windfall ? what in God’s name are you talking about ?

  • Anne

    The SDLP is entitled to put forth any petitions of concern it wishes to. It’s their fundamental right to do just that. However, it’s imperative that the public of Northern Ireland have the best possible option. There is a welfare problem in the entirety of the UK. The problem is not people who are disabled. The problem comes when people expect that a) having a baby = benefits until their youngest child “ages them out”; b) long term unemployment is – for some – a choice.
    As it stands the system is broken. Politicians speak of the £26,000 cap on families receiving benefits. The problem is – remove the hidden extras – free school meals; free childcare; school uniform vouchers; free nursery spots (preferential nursery spots); discounted public transport; free housing; free home repairs; the list goes on and on – A £26,000 cap + “perks” places the average benefit-dependent family with monies well in excess of £40,000 a year – tax free. A working family earning £40,000 doesn’t get those perks – they pay a mortgage, they pay full whack for bus fare to get their children to school (or pay for their own car), they pay when their boiler breaks down, their roof leaks, etc.
    Smart welfare is what is needed. Encourage people into work – don’t penalize people for working while supporting them into employment – that’s what Universal Credit is about.

  • MerryWeather

    Are you resurrecting Father Ted there?