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MLAs are being careless with taxpayers' money

As the word "crisis" is once again bandied about, it is worth revisiting the annual subsidy referred to as the block grant, or subvention from Westminster, which is based on the Barnett Formula.

On page 534 of Dean Godson's 2004 biography of David Trimble, he explains that, in 1999, the Treasury provided a block grant of £9.6bn.

Today, some 16 years later, the annual block grant received is much the same as it was then.

However, if that block grant had kept pace with inflation at an average annual inflation rate of 2.32% since 1999, it would today amount to some £14bn.

Due to the vagaries of the munificent Barnett Formula, Northern Ireland receives £4bn per annum less now than it did 16 years ago.

Another useful observation to make is that, on the following page, Godson says that the Health Department's budget in 1999, for 45,000 doctors, nurses and other employees, was £2.029bn.

The 2015-16 budget anticipates that the Health Department will receive £4.7bn.

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The cost of the Health Department has increased by far more than the rate of inflation and has more than doubled in that time.

It would be fair to ask MLAs at Stormont to scrutinise their budget before playing the "crisis" card.

The evidence suggests that they are being careless with taxpayers' money at both ends by, firstly, not drawing down what they're entitled to from the Treasury and, secondly, by throwing money at problems instead of fixing them.

They've got 12 months to put their house in order before the next Assembly elections.