Executive Office: The more things change, the more they stay the same

In today’s Irish News, John Manley has an interesting story about the powers and staffing levels of the new Executive Office (formerly OFM/DFM).

In his report he notes that despite losing a decent amount of its functions, the number of Special Advisors, Junior Ministers and the workforce will remain the same as he notes;

The new Department of Communities takes on the bulk of the policy areas which would have previously been the responsibility of OFMDFM, including initiatives involving older people, young people and the disabled. It will also lead efforts to tackle poverty and have policy responsibility for gender and sexual orientation.

Responsibility for Stormont’s childcare strategy has moved from OFMDFM to the Department of Education, while the Department of Finance is now responsible for NI Direct’s central editorial team and the government advertising unit.

However, despite the streamlining of its operations, the Executive Office will see no reduction in its workforce of 284, which includes eight special advisers.

The issue was raised yesterday in the Assembly by UUP MLA, Roy Beggs. The response from Junior Minister, Megan Fearon stated the following;

I thank the Member for his question. There are no plans to reduce the numbers of special advisers in the Department. I take the Member’s point, but, although the Executive Office is now more streamlined following the restructuring of Departments, it still covers a wide range of functions, and the work of Ministers has not reduced in the office. Much of our work also facilitates the business of the Executive and of other Ministers and their Departments. We remain a key strategic driver across the Executive, and that requires a lot of detailed work.

The Department continues to have responsibility for issues of significant political and cross-community interest, as well as for a number of key priority areas for the Executive.

Structures and staffing levels in the Department are regularly reviewed to ensure that work is delivered in.



David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs