Where would we be without the BBC?

One very specific question about the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal stands out for me above all others.

When exactly did the Executive start trying to find ways to limit the cost over the next 20 years?

There is an obvious problem about the Economy Minister’s sudden interest in the issue (as opposed to trying in effect to bribe airlines to fly from Belfast to New York with our money) and the Finance Minister’s sudden interest in being as his desk (as opposed to in the United States, perhaps using the aforementioned route). It appears they only became interested in saving some of the £485-£600m (they do not even agree the sum) within the past month, despite having been in office for fully six months beforehand.

There is no public evidence whatsoever that the Executive – the First Minister, Finance Minister or Economy Minister – were going to do a thing to restrict the cost to us of the Renewable Heat Incentive failings until within the past month. This is despite the fact they clearly each knew about it.

Why their sudden interest, now, in actually doing something? The BBC Spotlight documentary which uncovered the scale of the problem, the definite incompetence and the potential corruption.

Thank goodness for a free, impartial and well resourced media. Without it, the scandal may never have been uncovered and the price would have been paid by each one of us. But we should not forget the other scandal – but for the BBC raising the issue, the current Executive was going to do nothing about it, despite three Ministers knowing all the details.

Yet another reason we should cherish the BBC, but change the Executive…

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2 thoughts on “Where would we be without the BBC?

  1. Howard says:

    As you say the BBC did a great job and they deserve a lot of credit but it seemed to take a long time. Shouldn’t the BBC have called out the daft incentives as soon as they became public knowledge?

    It makes me wonder if HM Treasury should do greater scrutiny over what devolved ministers are doing – with the ability to comment publicly when they think errors are being made.

    • I do think it takes a long time to research such things.

      At the time, remember, we were told the Treasury was paying and it would be reviewed.

      The core of the issue now, in late 2016, is that neither of those was the case. Indeed, it turns out that the Minister in a letter to banks in early 2013 guaranteed one (the Treasury paying) effectively negated the need for the other (the Reviews) – something which was not public knowledge.

      In theory, it is not HM Treasury’s problem if a devolved administration chooses to burn its own money – that’s the nature of devolution. Indeed, it makes me wonder (as I long have) if we should not in fact have a much clearer correlation between our own taxes and our own devolved spending. That would, at least, stop this cultural notion with the NI bureaucracy that if the Treasury is paying it’s basically free money. It isn’t!

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