freedom, fairness, and responsibility: but not to NI!

freedom, fairness and responsibility

The three words that we are told by the Liberal Democrat Federal Party website sum up the Coalition Government’s Programme. However, I don’t see how it is promoting any of those when you consider what has just happened to the devolved countries’ finances.

HM Treasury changed the rules

Formerly, departments were allowed to carry over money from one year to another. In this way, Northern Ireland’s Department for Education had built up a reserve of £87m (2008 figures). Usually, making savings, is considered a good financial practice: building up reserves in case of need in the future.

But HM Treasury has just changed the rules. Sammy Wilson MP MLA, Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister says that it has been done

with a sweep of the pen,

and without any notice. The Education Minister here in Northern Ireland, Caitríona Ruane MLA says that the removal of this money is


It seems that Westminster believes that this is careless spending: it is not. The Departments in Northern Ireland always had the


to carry over money, and so they have done so to be good with the public money allocated to them. Just because they did not spend it when it was allocated, does not mean that it has not been used when making planning and financial decisions about the future.

There is nothing about


when a decision is made in Westminster without notice to the devolved administrations. It seems that the Government does not understand devolution.

As a Liberal Democrat, I believe in the freedom of local people making local decision for the local community. But this is being unfair to the Northern Ireland Executive and Departments who had shown


in building up reserves so that they could help in the future, rather than be dependent exactly on what is ‘handed down’ to them by the administration in Whitehall.

The Coalition Government must reverse this decision and give back the £300m that has been swiped from Northern Ireland. It is neither free, fair, nor responsible. And it is not what I would expect from a government that has Liberal Democrats in it.

One thought on “freedom, fairness, and responsibility: but not to NI!

  1. As I said in Twitter – it’s 1997 and Ulsterbus all over again, all because they had excess reserves.

    Moral of the story? Just waste all your money in year, no point being sensible and managing it properly, you’ll just have to hand it back. That sort of behaviour is why the public sector has a bad reputation for waste, and policies like this will just encourage more waste.


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