Friday, 19 February 2010

The wonders of the blame game

IN the absence of a row about Policing and Justice there was the weekly bust-up about the Presbyterian Mutual Society.

A Westminster parliamentary committee said blame rested partly with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment. The Minister for that Department, Arlene Foster said HM Treasury should sort things out, and they were partly to blame.

It’s amazing how quickly a side deal (over the Hillsborough Agreement) – albeit one that everyone denies took place – unravels.

Meanwhile those who have seen their savings disappear into an ether of regulations, court cases and political rows can only but despair and wonder how on earth these things have come to pass.

26 into 11 may not go

LOCAL government has a week to do the sums of dividing 26 councils into 11 councils.

As part of the Review of Public Administration the number of our local district councils has to be reduced.

But given the penchant in Northern Ireland for brinkmanship, Environment Minister Edwin Poots has given councils until 25 February to agree the new structures.

Agree or the whole deal is off. The Minister seems, on the surface, to be carrying on from when he was negotiating over policing and justice.

But then again, given that councils have supposed to have been cutting back since forever, one can understand why the Environment Minister is getting a little bit peeved over failures to set up a single waste authority and business service.

If the Minsiter were to look at the NI Planning Service he would see how a region-wide service can be delivered….oh wait a minute! Let’s have a logic break for a moment. We have a NI Planning Service that the Public Accounts Committee says is flawed. We’re going to devolve that down to council level. And we have a refuse/waste service that runs reasonably well in most areas that we are going to centralise. The wonders of the Review of Public Administration!

Stating the obvious

NORTHERN Ireland’s planning service is not fit for purpose. So says the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee. Who would have thought it!

After years of public inquiries, lengthy delays in getting approval for a conservatory and a postcode lottery on waiting times, the planning service has been long the butt of criticism.

But, the saddest and funniest part of the report from the committee is the delay in the Planning Service project to enable people to make planning applications online.

The project is overdue and is some stupid percentage over-budget.

The old saying is that one should not seek to re-invent the wheel. Should the officials in the planning service used that new fangled tool ‘Google’ they may have stumbled across

On this site you can make an online planning application, check building regulations and even learn about developing a ‘greener’ home.

Sort of like the thing Northern Ireland Planning Service wanted to develop.

If senior officials got bonuses for overdue projects, think what they would have got had they delivered on time by speaking to colleagues in England. Someone should raise this with the Environment Minister before planning is devolved to local councils.

Hey Mike, what’s your job this week?

THE more cynical of online commentators have been having a pop at Mike Nesbitt’s announcement that he was to be the Ulster Unionist Party’s preferred candidate in the general election.

The former BBC radio presenter, UTV front man, Sunday morning TV host, PR consultant and most recently Victims Commissioner broke cover on Wednesday after a week of speculation.

To those that would criticise his range of jobs would do well to remember the word, ‘career’.

Nesbitt’s career hasn’t been that varied, given that he is no spring chicken. But boy will he be effective in getting coverage of his campaign, should he be selected as the Conservatives and Unionist candidate. Ohh! He’s already done that.

Mind you a former Strangford MP got a lot of coverage too.

Ooops – we shoulda checked

BROADCAST regulator Ofcom is investigating whether the advertisement urging people to read the Hillsborough Agreement breached advertising rules.

The regulatory organisation is checking to see if the advertisement broke rules about making sure ‘special category’ adverts are checked before being aired.

And who should be the complainant…that would be Jim Allister’s TUV - joined swiftly by the SDLP’s Mark Durkan.

Ofcom say broadcasters should not transmit the advert without getting the green light from the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre.

But one has to say that while Jim Allister and Mark Durkan puff their chests out in indignation, this has served to draw attention to an advertisement that may have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of the populace.

Weird sort of week

NORTHERN Ireland politics took a week away from the mania of deals or non-deals with a return to normalcy – albeit for a brief while.

Election candidates breaking cover, rows over local government, criticism of the planning service – normal politics!

It almost makes one yearn for the good old rows about policing and justice. I said almost! For goodness sake guys let’s not go down that road again.