26 January 2018
Alison Millar, NIPSA General Secretary said:
“We previously stated that the publication of this Briefing immediately before Christmas, in the absence of devolved Ministers and without appropriate consultation or assessment of Equality impact, was a cynical move designed to curtail debate and present the limited options presented to us, including the introduction of charges and reduction of services, as the best we could hope for. We reject this approach.
In our full response to the Briefing that we publish today, we argue that the starting point in relation to a debate on public services has to begin by condemning the inadequacy of the Treasury’s financial “settlement” for Northern Ireland that even with the “£1bn” found to shore up the Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority, is wholly inadequate for the material needs of a society trying to build its way out of conflict. The Briefing paper illustrates as much. As anyone working in/using our health, education or other public services knows – our under-invested society is already in crisis (day-to-day public spending reduced by 8%; a Civil Service 18% smaller than 2014, reductions to the Block Grant forecast up to 2020). The conclusions drawn from this picture by the Department of Finance that we layer charges for public services on top of this crisis are a recipe for disaster and represent an attack on the principles of the right to free at the point of use public services. We do not accept the UK austerity agenda and the Treasury’s inadequate financial “settlement” that underwrites this Finance Briefing nor do we accept the suggestion that either “robbing Peter to pay Paul” or charging for some services, to partially address central government funding cuts, is the way forward”.
Alison went on to say:
“we need a genuine reappraisal/re-structuring of the punitive debts incurred under previous Executives; a re-examination (with a view to returning services in-house) of existing private sector contracts for public service delivery, an end to “corporate welfare” and a genuine approach to “reform” that commences from the necessary investment in staff and resources to meet public need”.