Belfast Telegraph

My focus is on public sector reform – Minister Hamilton

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Finance and Personnel

New Finance Minister Simon Hamilton today outlined how and why he hopes to focus on public sector reform during his time in office.

The Minister was speaking during a private breakfast briefing in Belfast hosted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Northern Ireland where members and business community representatives heard the Minister’s key priorities and his thoughts on the main economic challenges that Northern Ireland faces.

Simon Hamilton said: “The biggest challenge that Sammy faced and successfully overcame during his time in office was agreeing and delivering a very difficult budget settlement. Whilst the widespread predictions of public spending doom and gloom haven’t materialised, the public expenditure landscape has been altered.

“The spending round for 2015/2016 may have been more encouraging than we might have imagined but the prospect of tightening budgets up to 2018 and possibly beyond still exists. 

“Coupled with the ever increasing expectations of an understandably demanding public, it is clear that tough times lie ahead. Meeting those demands with ever fewer resources will be the underlying context of my time in DFP.

“The people of Northern Ireland won’t accept, and nor do they deserve, less with less. They deserve more with less. That’s all very easy to say but far harder to deliver. 

“The answer lies in the relentless pursuit of one aim – reform.

“The challenge of less public spending together with looming long term tests like an aging population means that reform isn’t something we can set aside, ignore and hope it isn’t needed.

“This is the single biggest challenge Northern Ireland faces in the next decade and it’s a challenge we can’t resist, it’s one we must embrace. For failure to reform in a way we choose and at a time of our choosing will see change forced upon us through circumstances.”

Minister Hamilton also outlined how he sees the Department of Finance and Personnel helping to achieve the aim of public sector reform. He said: “I want the Department of Finance and Personnel to be a proactive partner with other Departments and the entirety of our public sector to positively change Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland needs a Department that drives reform and innovation and change across the whole of government and, in my view, no Department is better placed to do that than DFP. 

“To assist me in meeting this objective, I can today announce the creation of a Public Sector Reform Division within the Department. This Division will work with the other Executive departments to assist them in making the reforms they require a reality. It will seek to stimulate innovation in service delivery and it will gather and disseminate best practice in public expenditure, shared services and digital delivery, amongst other things.”

The Minister asked: “How can we make Northern Ireland the most innovative public sector in the world?

“I want to make it clear that I don’t see this as a matter of DFP dictating how Departments should reform. I see the Department of Finance and Personnel as an enabler; as a facilitator; as a partner that provides support, assistance and, where appropriate, funding to make reform happen.

“DFP already plays a crucial role serving the needs of every other Department in ways that aren’t just about budgets. Things like shared services, procurement and human resources. It is in that capacity, as part of a strategic centre making our agreed objectives in government operational realities, that I see DFP helping others in the Executive to get the big and difficult things done. Departments need to be the owners of reform in their own areas of responsibility and DFP can be a helping hand.” 

Concluding the Minister said: “DFP as the driver of reform; as the catalyst of change; and as the enabler of innovation - that is my agenda for my time in office.” 

Notes to editors:

1. The Minister was speaking at a private breakfast briefing at the invitation of CBI Northern Ireland.

2. Full content of the Minister’s speech can be accessed via the DFP website: http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/cbi-breakfast-briefing-speech-010813 

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