Are the Media just leading us further into the dark over Stormont’s finances?

Hugh McCloy, a contributor to this site, made the point after the Finance Minister’s Statement on Monday that there needs to be increasing public interest in what the Executive is doing with our money – and, note well, it is our money! Again, however, we face the problem that our Mainstream Media are the best in the world at reporting events (including reporting atrocities from an impartial and sympathetic standpoint), but still have not adapted to the need to analyse … Read more

Hamilton balances the budget but 20,000 jobs destined for the scrapheap

So the NI budget? How was it for you? John Campbell of the BBC NI has most of the readings against Simon Hamilton’s draft budget… Mr Hamilton’s own account only references additions and neglects the subtractions.. Meanwhile Michael McHugh notes the eye-wateringly high number of public sector jobs expected to go… Around 20,000 jobs are to be slashed from Northern Ireland’s public sector following a political deal to safeguard powersharing. The posts will go over the next four years after … Read more

“the guiding principle for our final budget.”

Some points to note about the final budget as presented to the Assembly. From the Northern Ireland Finance Minister’s statement. Also, the Executive has agreed to introduce a measure of over-commitment on both the current and capital side. The overcommitment of £30 million per annum on both current and capital is really a ’self-help’ facility, made possible by better financial management across the public sector and the many revenue generating opportunities identified by departments. I believe that, in this context, … Read more

“Trench warfare has erupted…”

Via Newshound.  In the Sunday Times Liam Clarke welcomes the “trench warfare” the parties are engaging in over the Northern Ireland Executive’s draft spending plans.   Apparently, it’s better than the sectarian squabbling that went before…  ANYhoo…  From the transcribed Sunday Times article The eruption of public anger and megaphone diplomacy reflects the poisonous atmosphere around the executive table itself. McGimpsey needled the furious McGuinness by saying, “calm down Martin, don’t get so excited”. McGuinness and Robinson are both accustomed to … Read more

“this is significantly exacerbated by the political situation in Northern Ireland”

As well as those briefings by the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, both he and the NI First Minister have been dismissing political criticism of the draft NI Executive spending plans as ‘electioneering’.  No doubt that’s a consideration for some, but it’s not a charge that can be levelled at the Assembly’s Finance Committee. And as the Belfast Telegraph reports, PricewaterhouseCooper’s economic analysis of those draft plans is that “the [NI] Budget may not be deliverable in its current form”. [Esmond Birnie, Chief Economist at PwC … Read more

“Next time they might try openness and joined-up thinking”

I was somewhat blunter in my initial assessment of the Northern Ireland Executive’s spending plans, but I get the impression Patrick Murphy, in The Irish News, agrees. Their budgetary plans tell us three things – departments do not talk to each other, few of them know what a customer is and most ministers do not expect to retain their posts after the election. The information you wanted to know – details of how the cuts will affect you – will … Read more

Bullshit, and joined-up government…

Some four weeks after the departmental allocations were agreed and all Northern Ireland Executive departments have, to a greater or lesser extent, finally published their spending plans.  Don’t worry, though.  There’ll be an extra week of that public consultation… Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, is complaining that the UK Treasury has “swiped” £300million of NI departments’ yearly underspend – rather than allowing it to be drawn down in the subsequent year. The NIO has issued a statement … Read more

Executive spending plans delay “treating the public with contempt”

According to the BBC report the following Northern Ireland Executive Departments have yet to publish their spending plans. Office of the First and Deputy First Minister Agriculture Education Health Regional Development That’s despite the departmental allocations being agreed on 15th December and an ongoing public consultation on those plans. The report quotes Alliance Party MLA, Stephen Farry Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party said the ongoing delay was “treating the public with contempt”. And from a separate report A member of the … Read more

Updated: Over £260m to be cut from policing spend over next four years – but £171m to be added

The headline figures in the draft Northern Ireland budget re-allocation indicated only relatively small changes to the current expenditure of the NI Department of Justice up to 2014/15.  Three years of consecutive cuts – £10.6million in 2011/12, £24.1million in 2012/13 and £22 .3million in 213/14 – followed by a slight increase of £9.7million in 2014/15. But, as the BBC reports, the detail published today by the NI Department of Justice reveals that the police, in particular, are expected to find significant levels of “savings” in each of the … Read more

“Frankly I haven’t got to the bottom of this one yet…”

A snowbound Mark Devenport has been pondering the unsurprising economic illiteracy evident in some parties’ responses to the draft Northern Ireland budget distribution…  From the Devenport Diaries When George Osborne announced his Spending Review in October there was some analysis indicating it equated to 75%/25% ratio between cuts and taxes. We couldn’t get a definite figure from the Stormont Finance department for the ratio in Sammy Wilson’s effort to plug the projected £4 bilion hole in the local budget over the next … Read more

“making tough choices for the good of the country…”

And so it came to pass…  After weeks of political posturing the Northern Ireland Executive stayed up late last night to discuss DUP/Sinn Féin proposals for the draft NI Budget. And with those two parties having enough votes in the Executive – the UUP and SDLP abstained with the Alliance Party’s minister agreeing the proposals – today the Assembly is being immediately bumped into passing agreeing the draft ahead of a public consultation… The title quote is Jim Fitzpatrick’s prediction of the spin from … Read more

“No party should be playing politics [with the NI budget].”

With anonymous “republican sources” briefing anyone who will listen about tensions between the DUP and Sinn Féin over the still-to-be-agreed draft Northern Ireland budget, and while noting the DUP’s response reported here “The DUP has one approach to the budget,” [a DUP spokesman] said. “We are confident a budget will be put in place. “We are not playing politics with the budget. This is too important. “Families are struggling to pay mortgages. People are wondering if they are going to … Read more

Owen Paterson: “A settlement is precisely that – a settlement. It is not the opening round of a negotiation.”

You might have thought that when the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers met yesterday with NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, and Treasury Finance Secretary, Mark Hoban, the first item on the agenda would be the still-to-be-agreed NI draft budget. After all, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness did tell us that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had assured them that the NIO and the Treasury would be re-examining the figures. Strangely, there’s no mention of that in the OFMDFM … Read more

Owen Paterson: “in facing the challenges and exploiting every opportunity offered we function best when we are a team”

While the Irish Government struggles to cope with the game of geo-political hardball they are engaged in, the BBC reports that our own special little pleaders – the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers – have issued a statement following a meeting of the UK Joint Ministerial Committee. In case you didn’t know The Joint Ministerial Committee is established by the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Its purpose … Read more

Owen Paterson: “This is absolutely pathetic…”

The Northern Ireland Executive met on Thursday, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing. Not that there aren’t plenty of items which are, or which should be, on their agenda.  Most pressingly the still-to-be-agreed draft NI budget. And as economist Neil Gibson told the Assembly this week “I want to be clear that what’s in front of us is challenging,” [Mr Gibson] told members of the Finance and Personnel Committee. “I don’t want to underplay how hard it’s going to be to make savings, but … Read more