Friday, 4 June 2010

As bad as the 1970s

IT will be as bad as the 1970s says Finance Minister Sammy Wilson…and no, he isn’t referring to either dodgy fashion sense or the dark days of the Troubles! Instead it’s more a case of the cuts that are on the way.

Government departments, next step agencies, soft target quangos and even MLAs have all been identified by the former chief ‘A’ level economics examiner as being potentially in line for cuts.
Oh, and we’re all going to be taxed on H2O usage…water charges are on their way.
But we detect a double game at work here.

Sammy and his Executive chums are walking around talking up the prospect of a slashed budget and subsequent cuts. There is an inevitability about the whole thing in their rhetoric.
But, come next March/April – when an Assembly poll is around the corner – suddenly it won’t be as bad as everyone thought. Are we being cynical?

Of course there will be a few token scalps; maybe a quango here and a hospital there will face the axe; there will be a series of reviews (some more work for those hard-pressed management consultants…) and maybe a ‘big’ decision to make the grey suits seem like dynamic men and women.

Hey, we may see some action to reduce the number of departments from 12 to 11 – the figure it was at before the devolution of justice. Rending asunder the Department of Employment and Learning with the spoils divided between Education and Enterprise the result.

The DUP and Shinners may force through a reduction in MLAs from 6 to 5 per constituency; conveniently getting rid of some of those troublesome representatives from the smaller parties.
Leaving aside the political machinations, pre-election big changes such as this take a long time before savings emerge…and MLAs aren’t going to vote themselves out of post!

So where are the soft targets that Sammy and co can cut to make immediate savings? Answers on a postcard c/o Department of Finance…

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