Friday, 14 May 2010

Cuts, cuts, cuts – nothing at all like that

DEAR patient – please just be a wee bit more patient in A&E. And if you want to further your employability prospects, we hope you don’t mind travelling a few extra miles to college...

There are those, of a cynical bent who would say that the immediate changes to A&E services at Whiteabbey and Mid-Ulster Hospitals are the first signs of cuts in the health service. Far be it for us to contradict the Northern Trust, which says that changes in services are for the benefit of patients.

And, only the most jaundiced of eyes would look on the closure of seven campuses of the Northern Regional College as anything other than the necessary rationalisation given increasing costs and diminishing incomes.

But are these the harbingers of doom? Are these the harvesters of sorrow in the tough spending rounds ahead?

After all, each and every credible political party going into the Westminster election warned of the need to slash public spending. At the same time, all Northern Ireland departments and their next step agencies have been told that they must make efficiency savings.

Now that is surely the most wonderful euphemism yet. It has been kicking around the political block for some time now and the laughter would echo round the Assembly corridors even louder if it wasn’t so serious.

The new Secretary of State, Owen Paterson has pledged that redressing the balance between the public and private sectors is a long term – 25 year – goal; no doubt partially boosted by government grants and supply contracts...i.e. public sector spending. In the meantime each and every public sector worker will be looking over their shoulder and wondering whether their jobs are going to be there in a few months.

Thankfully, our new Cabinet of the newlyweds are leading by example with the news that each and every minister is taking a 5% pay cut. That’s nice of them, sharing the pain and all that. The PM will be taking a pay cut from his salary of almost £200,000 and Cabinet ministers will have their wage of nearly £150,000 cut.

So, when a public sector employee, be they nurse, doctor, fire fighter, or police officer looks askance at the thought of loosing their job, or the prospect that 2011 will see pay freezes and cuts, they can be heartened by the thought that the PM, his chums and his coalition partners are roughing it too!

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