Northern Ireland Executive spending dribbles out without a clear narrative. Does anybody care?

Taking a break from the minutiae of party battle,  let’s just see how we’re faring on policy – you know the stuff that politics is supposed to serve. The current results are mixed.

Three points for more progress on school sharing between Protestant and Catholics. Why not go the whole hog and integrate them for heaven’s sake? One point for raising the idea of prescription charges – not because they’re necessarily a winner or would raise much revenue. But at least the idea is a departure from the orthodoxy that failure to charge for anything must be a public virtue.

On the Welfare Bill what are they doing?  Heavily sugar coating the bitter pill, that’s what. But what’s this about ..

“Five new schemes are being developed to provide financial support for people who would lose money due to welfare changes in Northern Ireland. The details are not specifically referred to in the Welfare Reform Bill, which is being debated  by assembly members ?.”

Welfare is funded separately but money is being found from the block grant to make up part of the difference. There’s still a  black hole yet  this is not even debated! Peter Robinson may say that corporation tax is “doable” but still we have little transparency over the budget. The final distribution of the block grant emerges in dribs and drabs and bland assurances. When will we get  the full picture?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London