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Northern Ireland needs spending tsar to trim fat: trade chief

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland could benefit from a senior business figure carrying out an audit of how efficiently Stormont departments spend their money, it has been claimed.

Earlier this month Topshop owner Sir Philip Green delivered a scathing assessment of wastage in Whitehall departments and there have now been calls for a similar process to be carried out at Stormont.

It comes as Chancellor George Osborne today reveals exactly how much is being cut from the Northern Ireland budget over the next four years. Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is planning to be in the House of Commons to hear the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

As the Belfast Telegraph continues its War on Waste campaign with the public exposing abuse of taxpayers’ money, a business leader has said there is a “lot of fat” which could be trimmed from the public sector here.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: “A Philip Green for Northern Ireland would be ideal. I have read his analysis and I think a fair bit of it could be applied to the public sector in Northern Ireland because there is still a lot of fat in the system.

“We need to address that before we look at areas like salaries.”

Nigel Smyth, director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland, said: “Everybody is going to have to get real after this announcement from the Chancellor today and we do think the Executive is going to have to consider raising cash, whether it is through the sale of assets, putting up rates or other charges or more innovative forms of financing.”

CBI leaders in the province have held talks with Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionist delegations this week, and plan to take their message to the other parties.

“There are lower levels of productivity ... but there are also good examples of best practice in the civil service which could be extended across the larger public sector,” he said.

But Brian Campfield, general secretary of the largest civil servants’ union, the NI Public Service Alliance, said: “However the Chancellor dresses up his spending plans the measures taken to reduce the deficit will hit people on low and middle incomes dramatically and the wealthier in our society will barely feel any pain whatsoever.”

Tell us about waste where you work

With public funding coming under massive pressure, the call is going out to people to flag up inefficient practices where they work and live.

That applies to public sector employees and the many hundreds of thousands who use public services on a daily basis.

Instances of waste in the private sector are also very much welcomed.

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