strong leadership needed in Northern Ireland to deal with budget cuts effectively


CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, has today called for strong and decisive leadership on the budget if the Northern Irish Executive (NIE) is to properly manage Northern Ireland’s public expenditure crisis.

This comes as the NIE today agreed the 2015/16 budget for central government spending, including savings of up to £850 million, which required significant spending reductions to be negotiated and agreed by all political parties in Northern Ireland.

CIPFA’s call reflects the tough choices made in other areas of the UK, where some services have faced spending cuts of up to 30%, which have seen public bodies working to re-calibrate public services to continue delivery while also reducing costs. To achieve the savings needed, politicians and public servants in Northern Ireland will have to work to both protect and prioritise services while also managing the public’s expectations.

Steve Mungavin, Head of CIPFA in Northern Ireland, said:

“CIPFA welcomes the decision of the Executive to agree the 2015/16 budget as a forward spending plan for central government in Northern Ireland.  However, this is the relatively easy part, what is needed now is implementation and action. 

“This will mean taking a radical approach to the public services we can afford to provide, and an open mind about how such services can be provided going forward.  This will require a new mind-set and strength of leadership to take tough spending decisions necessary”.

In CIPFA’s view, a new approach to public services should include:

  • No ‘ring-fencing’ of spending to protect any particular department.
  • Prioritising those services that are legally required to be provided.
  • Commissioning alternative providers where possible to reduce cost.
  • Avoiding duplication of services caused by the legacy of the conflict.
  • Innovating and creating new ways of providing services.
  • Reducing bureaucracy and the burden of regulation on public bodies where appropriate.

CIPFA is currently examining the background to the 2015/16 budget process in Northern Ireland. The budget issues encountered will be objectively assessed against the scale and pace of change of reform that is required in comparison to the other devolved administrations within the United Kingdom. CIPFA expects to produce a report on its findings in early December.