Belfast Telegraph

Now we have a plan we need some action The Draft Programme for Government, announced this week, is greatly overdue. It has been so long in coming that its protracted delay was a big test of Stormont politicians' ability to deliver.

The lack of urgency in bringing together a much-needed plan to protect jobs and to help business and to assist people to combat poverty, is little short of startling.

In other parts of the United Kingdom there has been a greater sense of momentum. In Scotland, for example, a new detailed budget has been announced this week, but in Northern Ireland there is not even an outline as yet.

On the more positive side, however, the Stormont ministers have now been asked to produce detailed proposals which should demonstrate a more imaginative and ambitious Programme for Government.

These include the need to approve consultations on the Social Investment Fund which tackles disadvantage. Another important initiative is the investigation of claims of child mistreatment in Roman Catholic institutions in Northern Ireland, and to agree a way forward on institutional abuse. One of the more far-reaching proposals is for the reduction of local councils by more than 50% in the next few years.

This suggestion has been around for a long time, but there should be no further delay in a programme which will slash bureaucracy and greatly diminish costs. The progress should be straightforward, or as direct as any initiative can be within the tortuous complexities of Stormont politics. However, there is a whiff of perennial government dysfunction in the lukewarm reaction of the SDLP's Environment Minister Alex Attwood. He has stressed the need for more detail, and has staked out his notional independence by stating, "I will make the judgment on the model for local government, including numbers, and the right way we can go about getting it organised."

Technically he may be correct, but the reaction of the vast number of voters to this and other proposals in the Programme for Government is simply to "Get on with it." We cannot wait on Stormont for ever.


From Belfast Telegraph