Saturday, 24 October 2009

The cost of Policing and Justice

THE man who, while Chancellor of the Exchequer was associated with financial prudence, is preparing to write a fat cheque for Policing and Justice. After interminable Downing Street appearances from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally caved in…or did he?

Rumour has it he was threatening to charge the dynamic duo rent, if they popped in for another week of negotiations.

But, with a letter and a Parliamentary statement, Mr Brown’s offer is on the table…£ 1 billion to be precise.

Mr McGuinness was looking particularly chuffed and even the First Minister’s face was showing the faintest trace of a smile.

Mr Robinson did, of course, want the offer ‘Cameron-proofed’. The Conservative leader gave that reassurance.

So with the cheque all but ready to be deposited into the coffers of NI plc, Mr Robinson is running out of ‘confidence-building’ measures to delay on.

He must, however, have been reassured to find that TUV leader Jim Allister’s claim that the PM’s cash offer is really a loan has been scotched by the NIO. Apparently HM Treasury aren’t looking for it to be repaid (imagine the interest payable on £1 billion!)

Barristers stare poverty in the eye shocker

BARRISTERS in Northern Ireland are threatening to strike over pay-cut threat.

Poverty stricken barristers are faced with the horrible prospect of having to give up north Down mansions and leafy suburbia detached residences if Government plans to cut chunks out of the legal aid budget.

If such a thing were to happen, the poor downtrodden bewigged ones say they may form picket lines, whistle the Internationale and come over all Trotskyite.

After all, they claim, only a few of them earn six figure sums, still fewer have become millionaires in the enquiry frenzy, and they even have to pay for their own wigs.

If they don’t get top dollar for cases they may abandon criminal court for the more lucrative civil and judicial review merry-go-round.

Which, given the education mess around academic selection, means they can still coin it in - challenging the grammar schools’ new entrance exams.

If you want to see the list of the top 100 paid counsel in 2007/2008 click here (the lowest paid counsel got £37,496 and the highest paid got £716,915 not including VAT)

When is an Assembly answer not an assembly answer?

PATSY McGlone was getting his knickers in a twist over the amount of money spent on consultants by Executive departments, and the cost of the Review of Public Administration.
Imagine his surprise when Jonathan Craig asked a similar question and got a different set of figures altogether. The difference was about £10 million, no small amount.

So Patsy was right to get his knickers in a knot…

Was it just a ‘simple accountancy error’, or was the wrong amount put in the wrong column? We may never know, but department officials are said to be considering asking a consultancy firm to investigate…

That’ll be the full allowance please!

A LOT of MLAs seem to have had an unerring knack of claiming their maximum expenses entitlement.

It takes an almost unimaginable amount of financial dexterity to know going into the final weeks of the accounting period that you’ve claimed almost exactly the maximum amount allowed.

Assembly Director General Trevor Reaney was quick to point out that all the claims were within the rules and had been approved. That’s all right then…

The flip side of this is that as MLAs are so financially capable in claiming their expenses, surely they can sort out NI plc. If we just tell them it’s an expenses claim, they’ll have the economy whipped into shape in no time.