Peter Robinson strongly hinted to the press that the Executive might delay the introduction of water charges due to the economic downturn. This was a marvelous piece of media management and was dutifully reported by the press – not one of who asked him at which Executive meeting this had been discussed. As the Executive has not met for months one can only assume that Mr Robinson did this to ‘bounce’ his Executive colleagues into agreement and to ensure he gets the political credit rather than his colleague Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein.
Has Mr Robinson decided that the General Election might be in the next twelve months? He might think that it would not be wise politically to be sending out rates bills with a new water element in the months leading up to either the European election in June or any possible General Election. It is a slightly risky strategy in that if water charges are finally introduced in April 2010 it could be in the run up to a 2010 General Election.
Robinson’s main focus is still said to be Policing and Justice. Although the DUP and SF have agreed that they will not take the post in the foreseeable future, Robinson is concerned that Sinn Fein Ministers could seek to interfere by using the power enshrined in the Executive’s rules that any three Ministers can call in any Ministerial decision.