Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Sammy making his mark

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson is making his mark as the newly appointed Finance Minister.

Just a month into the job and he has already decided to axe bonuses to top civil servants this year.

Although we have not been told what the savings have been earmarked for, the bold move will save £1.1m and could provide salaries for more than 100 apprenticeships, almost 50 new nurses for one year or approximately 45 PSNI officers.

In the midst of a recession and when Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate stands at 6.3%, with the highest economic inactivity rate in the whole of the UK and 49,500 people claiming unemployment benefits, any jobs boost or investment in skills for the province would be a bonus.

Mr Wilson’s decision, and one which must be commended, will not inflict any particular financial hardship on the senior civil servants affected by the move as they are already in receipt of lucrative salaries.

One of the ranks to lose out on the bonus, which works out at an average of £5,000 per person, is that of permanent secretary — a post which attracts a salary of approximately £98,000 per annum.

What has also made the Finance Minister’s directive notable is the fact that it is a break in practice with the rest of the UK.

It demonstrates that we have political representatives in positions of power who are prepared to act for the greater good.

In fact Mr Wilson has set a precedent which could be followed by other regions in the UK.

Northern Ireland’s private sector has borne the brunt of the recession with tens of thousands of job losses, which have placed a bigger burden on the public purse.

Therefore it is only right that public sector savings, such as the above, are made in times like these.

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