Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Executive

In academic terms, it is little better than a borderline pass. And in most seats of learning it might not even earn the tutor's time-honoured summation of 'satisfactory'.

The overall mark of the Stormont Executive on their own official 'report card' is just 55%. That's the calculation in terms of the targets set in the original Programme for Government (PFG).

The 'result' was revealed at a meeting of the committee which monitors the work of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

It came from OFMDFM officials Dale Heaney and James McEldowney, who were briefing committee members on the delivery report of the last PFG.

Mr Heaney argued that, in spite the impact of the economic downturn, ministers "have made, and continue to make, a significant difference to people's lives".

In introductory remarks to the hearing, he went on: "Delivery reports tend to focus on what remains to be done rather than on what has been done. Improvements could be made in striking a better balance between the positive and negative aspects of delivery."

A pass mark for a particular commitment contained within the vast four-year programme means it has either been completed, is on the road to completion ('amber/green'), or has at least been green-lighted.

"Of the key goals and commitments, 55% are rated as green, amber/green or completed," Mr Heaney said. "On the face of it, that is slightly disappointing."

But the senior official added: "The current Programme for Government has been very ambitious.

"It is important to bear that in mind when considering progress against targets such as those to eliminate severe child poverty.

"Those types of issues require much longer than three years, especially given the economic conditions."

The Assembly's own research reveals a huge credibility gap with the general public, which tends overall to have a poor opinion of the record and achievements of the new Stormont regime.

The 55% figure at last puts some meat on the bones of the argument.

SDLP committee member Dolores Kelly said: "That is not good overall."

And Mr McEldowney said: "One of the key objectives is to maximise the lessons to be learned from the experience to date."

Just five weeks until the election, the conclusions of many people will be: must do better.

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