Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Poots the first but hardly the last to backtrack on pledges

Edwin Poots may be the first of many ministers to signal that election pledges cannot always be kept.

It is there in black and white on page 18 of the DUP manifesto that the party will ‘open a new radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin’, but Mr Poots now says he will have to look at the figures and take a fortnight to weigh things up.

Before the election, not much thought was needed before making spending pledges. As soon as Michael McGimpsey, the previous health minister, shelved the unit unless and until the staffing costs were produced, everyone else did the popular thing and promised to proceed with it.

Even if he does go ahead — and he clearly wants to — Mr Poots has put down a marker that hard decisions are going to have to be made in health and in other areas.

Not everything that was promised in the passion and urgency of the election can be delivered in the harsh light of day. We can expect more of this as ministers try to match vote-catching promises to limited budgets. It is inevitable the reduced funds in our block grant from Westminster will have to be spread more thinly, or else topped-up by increased charges. It is safe to predict that u-turns, stealth taxes, cuts and compromises lie ahead.

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