Monday, 15 June 2009

cuts or efficiency savings

The next general election will be fought on many issues, not least the actions of the incumbant in relation to their expenses. The real political issue will focus on the level of Government income available to run the country. All parties are agreed that when expenditure is greater than income something has to give and it is this something which will divide the political classes. In Northern Ireland we have hidden the fact that budgets are being cut in the relatively useless term "efficiency savings" spread evenly across all departments. This will no longer suffice, we are at the point where the difficult decisions have to be taken. A new Programme for Government is required which establishes the real priorities, to protect the weak, support our indigenous economy and allow for growth and development where real fiscal advantage can be gained. Infrastructure developments such as major roads are questionable when there is not the revenue to maintain the current infrastructure. Why build roads when people still live in unfit housing and we have a need of 40,000 new social housing units? Why continue to chase the ever elusive Foreign Direct Investment (usually attracted by a golden welcome) when our most successful businesses such as FG Wilson are struggling? Why does DSD continue to churn out masterplan after masterplan for town centre regeneration when it knows there is no investment to implement them?
Lets stop the nonsense about efficiency savings, lets tell people the truth, we don't have the money to do everything, then let us focus on those areas where we have to support people such as housing and improving health and invest heavily in those. Let us postpone those items that would be nice to have but we just can't afford at this time. People do it every day of the week with their own money, why can't Government do likewise?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

reshuffle or panic

Just as some of the DUP Minister's in the Executive are beginning to understand the scale of the task ahead in terms of governing they are to be shuffled off as Peter panics over the EU election result. While the result was bad, there is no doubt that this knee jerk reaction has the potential to make matters worse for the DUP and indeed for Northern Ireland. Any coalition government depends on the ability of the people around the table to communicate, albeit just on issues of policy. Continuously changing the dynamic means effectively starting from scratch again. Does Northern Ireland have the space or time for a new class taking Government 101?
So where did things go wrong for the DUP?
  • They allowed themselves to be frightened by Jim Allister, and it showed. The lack of interest in the post by anyone higher than a Councillor showed that they feared engagement with him, had someone of note risen to the challenge and actually took him on they would have at least shown some backbone. After all how can you take on Sinn Fein if you are frightened of a fellow unionist?
  • Diane Dodds was a bad candidate, despite all the words of support from the party leadership Diane is not known for her personal skills, debating skills or policy knowledge. In council she can put her hand up to vote when required, which in reality is all that most DUP Councillors are required to do.
  • Family politics gives some comfort that the people around you are trustworthy and supportive, but there comes a time when it just looks like greed, that time has come for the DUP.
  • The DUP campaign was poor and lacklustre, even the printed material screamed at people rather than talked to them. Rumours of catastophic mistakes abound. It became clear that the Director of Elections was out of his depth.
  • The strenuous efforts to keep Diane off the hustings stage with Jim Allister were pointless if there was no commitment to carry the policy through for 100% of the time. It would have been easier to hit all the hustings early in the campaign and draw the stings before the expectations grew towards the final week.
  • Voting for someone to be number one to keep someone else out is not going to be a good enough reason in the future. People have cottoned on to the cynical changes negotiated at St Andrews to establish the DUP election chant for the future, they don't like it.
  • Like it or not the DUP lied to a sizeable section of their support in 2007, they told some a vote for the DUP was a vote to enter Government, they told others a vote for the DUP was a vote to stay out of Government. Those chickens were always coming home to roost.

So what next !

Changing a few Ministers won't make much of a difference bar a few new faces, Nelson at DCAL will mean lots of Ulster -Scots funding and lots of money for Linfield but the arts in Northern Ireland are in for a financial drought. Peter Weir for DETI, hmmm I have seen the tears in DETI civil servants eyes, the less said the better. Plug Poots for Environment makes Sammy look like Stephen Agnews best friend.

The biggest change the DUP could deliver is to make devolution work. We used to complain that direct rule ministers flew in to Belfast, took decisions and flew out again. More and more the general public point out that while we may have not always liked the decisions at least we had some form of Government. Being in Government means being capable of governing and that Peter is the problem, to date the DUP have shown themselves incapable of governing. Putting that right is about changing attitudes not personalities.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I'm back

After a hectic month of university essays and EU campaigning I have actually found my blog again. My last blog would appear to have been quite prophetic and since so much has happened in the intervening period I will try to comment succinctly on some of the issues over the next few days.