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Belt Tightening Time 2

Mark Devenport | 12:41 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Last month we reported that the Finance Department's best guess of what we might get in the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review was a 3.7% increase in our budget. Allowing for inflation at 2.7% that equalled a 1% rise in real terms.

Yesterday when Alistair Darling opened his wallet, the Treasury told us we were getting an average 1.7% rise in real terms over the next three years. So that's 0.7% more. Gordon Brown said the cash was more than he had previously promised. Time to get out the glasses and order a crate of that Stormont crested wine?

Well maybe. However, according to the Treasury figures, we are trailing the other devolved nations. They say Scotland got a 1.8% rise in real terms and Wales got 2.4%.

Even so our politicians, who were all busy arguing about the Irish language when the Chancellor was on his feet, seem relatively content. In my e-mail box, I have a statement from the Alliance describing the spending round as "tight". But the SDLP say they find it "reasonably positive". The DUP Finance Minister Peter Robinson said it highlighted "the need for local departments to deliver efficiencies over the period to 2010-11".

This contrasts with the situation in Scotland, where both before and after the Chancellor's statement, the SNP has been crying foul. The Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond refuses to accept that he's getting 1.8% more. Instead he's told the Scotsman he's only getting a 0.5% increase.

Click here

Here are a few potential explanations for the different reactions for readers to choose from

1. NI politicians are better at maths than Scottish First Ministers (or vice versa)
2. The SNP has a direct political reason to deride Labour figures as Labour organises in Scotland
3. If our parties make a fuss about the Treasury handout it will only attract attention to the lack of a peace dividend
4. We can't work out our percentages because we were debating the Irish language at the time

UPDATE: Alex Salmond met Ian Paisley at Westminster this afternoon. He claims NI and Wales are just as upset as he is about the Comprehensive Spending Review and they intend to work together to try to get a better deal...

FURTHER UPDATE: This evening the Finance Department confirmed that Peter Robinson had discussed the spending review with his Scottish counterpart and they hope to meet the Treasury soon, either separately or together. Both ministers are concerned, apparently, about the way the funds are geared over the next three years.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:09 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Councillor David Barbour wrote:

Peter Robinson will remember that he wanted the number of Departments reduced from 11 to around 6. Not a vote catching proposition to put many people out of jobs in N.I. that depends heavily on Public Service funding. He could start by reducing consultancy jobs for some people who retired on well heeled pensions and lump sums and brought in the back door for another bite at the cherry. People have not forgotten about a shortfall in promised funding. Alignment with nationalists in Wales and Scotland is a dangerous strategy and could be seen as anti-English while fueling the fires of independence. The Rev William McCrea once said on a political platform "if you lie with the dogs you will rise with their fleas"

  • 2.
  • At 09:07 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Bob Wilson wrote:

Note though that NI and Scotland - where there is no Labour involvement in the administration did worse than Wales.
Just goes to prove that if you are outside the the main two party system you are screwed

  • 3.
  • At 10:20 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

I think is about time for Peter Robinson to get his finger out and sort out the money situation here in N. Ireland. For years we have accepted second best and now Peter Robinson wants to do the same. Since Devolution was returned in May Peter Robinson has done nothing to address the financial situation. He talks that he is going to do it but when will it happen? All Government bodies need money to provide a service to the public. All Government Departments need cash as well as Hospitals, Schools and Police. As a suggestion do away with the senior civil servants. Departments can advise ministers what is the best course of action to take as they have in effect got "their ear to the ground". Senior Civil Servants get 10% pay rise and also and get £10000 bonuses a year. If that was stopped then there would be millions more to spend.

  • 4.
  • At 10:07 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Councillor David Barbour wrote:

I visited the chamber recently with other councillors on local business and our escort explained that during the summer it is planned to have a large refurbishment. I am afraid I was rather taken aback to see what I thought was good highly finished wood to be lifted out. I dare say when the project is costed and explained many members of the public will find it difficult to understand against the current financial restraints the Executive is under.

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