Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Robinson vows to cut Stormont departments

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson today signalled his intent to push ahead with plans to cut the number of government departments at Stormont.

Proposals he will table later this autumn will also include recommendations to reduce and reorganise other government structures within the devolved administration.

There are 11 departments and 14 ministers in the ruling Executive and Mr Robinson's Democratic Unionist Party has long argued that this figure is too high.

Addressing a conference of retailers in Belfast, the East Belfast MP said in the face of likely cuts in public expenditure in the coming years the public will no longer tolerate bureaucracy in the political world.

He said a restructuring at Stormont would not only save millions but would also create a public sector in a better position to deliver frontline services.

"I believe with the likely cuts to the Northern Ireland block (grant from the Treasury) that the public will lose patience with a system which requires cuts to frontline public services but leaves political bureaucracy intact. Let those who would seek to defend retaining the present bureaucracy explain to the public why their services should be cut."

Previous DUP suggestions to cut the number of departments to six or seven have been met with opposition from other political parties within the assembly. Mr Robinson conceded that he would need to win support for the proposals when he publishes them in the coming months and urged his audience at the Retail NI 09 event to back his plan.

"I cannot force change in the face of substantial opposition in the Assembly but together we can force those who would rather use your money on bureaucracy than public services out into the open to defend their position."

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