The hospital with no patients

The catastrophic mismanagement of Northern Ireland’s public finances by the two parties entrusted primarily with managing them in 2007 is about to cause real difficulty for a significant number of people.

Having lived in Financial La-La-Land for the first three years of that period – either side of the Credit Crunch – the Day of Reckoning was always nigh. In 2015, it is now.

Think on this. This week, third sector organisations began warning their staff of the potential for impending redundancy; the public sector began its trawl for “voluntary exit”; and retailers began to assess if they could afford to continue. Politicians – Unionists (the DUP and their UUP clones) in particular – chose to talk about flags and parades. Ask any victim of their financial mismanagement if they care…

The private sector, of course, had to face this all 5-7 years ago. However, when it did so, it generally (albeit not always) did it in a planned way. This does not apply to the public sector (and broader public-funded sector).

In fact, one Department is now having to reduce its funding to such a degree that, during 2015/16, it will almost literally pay staff salaries and do nothing else (it is also a victim of the ludicrously mishandled Local Government Reform programme). We really do have a case of a hospital with no patients. Such a Department will provide no value for ratepayers’/taxpayers’ money, no solace to staff under threat of losing their job (voluntarily or otherwise), and no work satisfaction for educated professionals who actually want to achieve things.

This is an inevitable consequence of denying this day would come (and, in this case, the finger of blame points primarily at Nationalists). Instead of managing a reduction to our bloated public sector and moving us gradually away from our near-absolute dependence on the public purse, we are now going to be dragged away kicking and screaming with entirely unpredictable effects on who will remain in work, which services will still be provided, and what quality they will be provided to.

It’s a complete shambles, and it’s the only issue which matters. It is the result of political incompetence – the type of incompetence which should be the only issue when a suffering electorate approaches the polling booths in May.


5 thoughts on “The hospital with no patients

  1. William Allen says:

    Ian, I agree with everything you have written in this article. Sadly however I believe that the voters will once again vote in their droves for the DUP and SF come May.

    The major problem with democracy is that elected politicians end up looking to do what will be popular with their voters rather than what is good for or needed by the state. We have seen twice now when the DUP/SF executive have been forced to implement massive spending cuts that the department most heavily hit is the one that funds higher education despite the obvious importance of higher education both socially and economically to the future of the state. Targeting this department primarily is for two reasons. The biggest being that Universirty Education is not high on the list of issues important to the section of the population that both DUP and SF draw the core of their votes from (ie the lower socioeconomic and least educated section). This is why this department is not picked by either party and has ended up under Alliance. The second reason is that it is not one of their departments and they no doubt think that they will shift the blame on to Alliance.

    Sadly I have no faith that the public will address the poor government of these parties by not electing them, and so all I can see is a bleak future for Northern Ireland.

  2. Gareth Blood says:

    Request (!): could you do a reasonably detailed blog on the points of the Corpo Tax bill? The devil (as far as I am concerned) was always in the detail of how this bill would work and how things are calculated – different specifications can make a big different to the impact of this tax devolution. Now it’s out today, would be fascinating to have some analysis of it!

    (Rather than the usual groaning about NI politicians, which is now a relatively hackneyed vernacular of the NI commentatariat).

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