Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Absurd bonus that rewards failure

The award of nearly £500,000 in ‘bonus payments’ to members of the Northern Ireland Planning Service beggars belief.

People will ask how on earth such huge payments were made to a department which has consistently under-performed, with a planning applications system which was |described by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee as “not fit for purpose”.

The damning figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph — under a Freedom of Information request — are particularly disturbing because some civil servants were paid huge bonuses |despite a series of high-profile failures.

The Public Accounts Committee found that customer satisfaction levels with the Planning Services had deteriorated alarmingly, from 76% to 32% in the last decade, with significant differences in performance levels between divisional offices.

Despite this, a spokesperson for the Planning Service had the gall to state that the special bonus scheme rewarded “exceptional performance”, yet only one out of six divisional planning offices —that based in Omagh — met all its targets for processing applications.

Significantly, even this office managed to meet its targets in only two out of six financial years. In short the overall performance of the Planning Service has been a disgrace, and yet a large amount of public money has been used to reward such shoddy performances.

A root and branch reorganisation of the Planning Service is long overdue, as is a review of the greatly discredited “bonus” scheme in the public sector, which is just as obnoxious as that paid by bankers to themselves.

One of the first objectives of a new Westminster Government is to clean up or clear out the bonus system which so disfigures the public and private sectors, and which is clearly questionable. That would be a real bonus for all of us.

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