Monday, 21 June 2010

Tensions between Wilson and Robinson?

In today's Belfast Telegraph I acknowledge that the budget cut penny seems to have dropped with Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, but I ask whether Peter Robinson shares his realism?

For some time our politicians have realised that separate water charges are unavoidable. With the budget tightening, it would be folly to defer them any longer.
To Wilson's credit, he has argued the case for an immediate introduction. It is the type of unpopular decision which must be made in the interests of good government.
When the Finance Minister authored a paper, working on the assumption that charges would be introduced for the 2011-12 financial year, however, he was rebuffed by his colleague in the First Minister's office
Robinson rejected the document, describing it as "unwise", and rubbished the notion that the Executive is to implement a 'tap tax'.
It is not the first time that the two DUP men have clashed over economic policy. Previously, Wilson declared his scepticism about a cut in corporation tax for Northern Ireland, arguing that it would inevitably be accompanied by a reduction in the block grant. Robinson, meanwhile, has made positive noises about lower business taxes.
The First Minister probably has the stronger case on that issue. But at least Wilson shows awareness that there are two sides to the public finance ledger.
I argue that, too frequently, the Executive's decision making has been guided by populism, rather than common sense.  It is a trait which accompanies devolution but it is also exacerbated by the navel gazing fomented by the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The Executive is missing opportunities to show leadership. The problem with devolution is it hands regional administrations power without requiring fiscal responsibility. It is too easy to take credit for popular policies and blame Westminster for unpopular ones.
The phenomenon was exacerbated by the fawning attention which we became accustomed to from prime ministers. The 'peace process' inculcated a sense of overweening entitlement. But the rest of the UK doesn't owe us a living. Tough decisions can't be avoided.
With the 2011 Assembly elections looming, the Executive might be tempted to delay the pain a little longer. This would be irresponsible. I suspect Sammy Wilson has accepted this. He still needs to persuade Peter Robinson.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wish. For someone who so obviously hates the DUP, you seem to spend an awful lot of time and energy focused upon them.

Chekov said...

I write articles about Northern Irish politics. It would be odd not to mention the biggest party in the Executive.