The media and various lobbyists were very excited last week over the Finance Minister’s plans to allocate £22 million to social enterprise and similar good causes. This gained him quite a lot of coverage.
The obvious problem is: he doesn’t have the money.
The money is dependent on a reform of rating he announced in the Assembly.
The obvious problem is: the Executive hasn’t agreed to that reform.
So, whether it should or shouldn’t, it can’t and won’t happen.
Indeed, he had not even spoken to his DUP partners about it before he announced it. Given that proposals such as removing the rates cap are directly contrary to established DUP policy, and he did not even give them the courtesy of trying to develop a compromise before making the announcement, there is zero chance of it happening.
So a Sinn Féin Minister has made an apparent pledge of £22 million he cannot hope to deliver on.
This is the same Sinn Féin Minister who made a pledge to introduce same-sex marriage legislation, urged those pursing it through a private member’s bill to let him do so, and then had to withdraw his proposal because it lacked Executive agreement – exactly because, again, it ran directly contrary to his partner party’s policy.
It should by now be apparent that delivery is not Sinn Féin’s strong suit. We have a Health Minister who has set out “the only road map” to Health Reform but is not even consulting on that road map (far less developing a practical action plan to deliver it); and an Infrastructure Minister overseeing delay after delay on his party’s long proposed A5 and A6 upgrade projects (evidently he and his colleagues had never thought to check the processes had been carried out correctly even though they have been in the Executive for the full nine years since the first public inquiry). Meanwhile the DUP has been able to keep down household taxes, complete two major road projects in the east (one of which, the A8, really should have been well down the list), and even now put in a Unionist Justice Minister to keep half-used courthouses open.
The media and lobbyists should know better, therefore, than to report Sinn Féin ministerial announcements as if there is even the remotest hope of them happening without prior Executive backing.
The real story here is the Finance Minister is all talk. He is about to get his plans blocked again – for the second major time in just six months including summer recess, that is some going…