Friday, 11 June 2010

Please sir, I want some more!

IT has become an almost Dickensian farce; the spectacle of ministers from the devolved administrations coming to see the fledgling Government, hoping against hope that the dark days of doom augured by deficit woes won’t cripple their own little corner of the country.

And so, when the dynamic duo of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness beat their familiar path to London to beg the PM for some help, even a little succour in their time of economic peril.

With stern faces they looked into the camera with downcast glances and uttered a pretty much on-message set of statements that bore all the hallmark of bluffers at a card game: they know they’ve no real hand to play against the loaded aces, but they’ll still pretend there is something to be gained.

And therein lies the rub.

There is a hope that Her Majesty’s Treasury – henceforth to be known as the Bad Guys Club – won’t hack and slash the Barnett Formula with a scorched earth policy towards the devolved administrations.

Here in Northern Ireland this delicate pose of pretence that we’ll do what we can is somewhat at risk by the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive takes on average several aeons to make a decision.

Perhaps it is the nature of forced, consensual politics that decisions take so long; though the public may suspect it is because Team Executive are useless.

While waiting for the Bad Guys (i.e. HM Treasury) to announce doom perhaps it might be an idea to take some action rather than pontificate over boosting the private sector and making the public sector more efficient.

Some ideas the Executive might want to consider: dump a department or two; after all devolving crime....sorry policing and justice has added a department to an already bloated system. Perhaps we can do without the Department of Employment and Learning.

Next, there are some radical decisions: performance rated pay for Ministers and Permanent Secretaries i.e. cut back their by 50%. If they actually manage to get the Executive to back proposals for making efficiencies, they’ll get their full pay...

And finally – if a Minister issues a stupid statement, or is seen visibly to waffling on camera, or is doing a self-aggrandising interview, the public can vote for an extra tax percentage to be imposed on that Minister.

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