The Community Relations Council (CRC) has responded to the public consultation on the NI Executive’s draft budget proposals.
CRC Chief Executive Duncan Morrow says,
‘We recognise that in these difficult financial times government public expenditure needs to be reduced and that CRC in line with other arms length bodies will need to make difficult cuts in its operational budgets.
‘However, we are concerned that there is little evidence across departments that the CSI consultation, or even the peace process of 16 years, has had any direct or measurable impact on departmental spending plans for the next four years or that there is any serious planning for tackling the costs of division in the long run. There is a risk that this vital issue, along with the potential savings which could be achieved in sharing services, has been set aside as ‘irrelevant’ to key financial and political decisions.’
In its consultation response CRC argues that there is an urgent need for the NI Executive to put in place a budget that demonstrates that a rhetorical commitment to Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) is matched by a willingness to apply resources to this difficult and long-term task. It is also concerned at the absence of any explicit or direct link of peace-building to the draft budget or any proposal of a strategy for shared resources to the goals of new investment, creating sustainable communities, tackling disadvantage and improving education.
CRC argues that there are three interrelated priorities which must all be addressed –
attracting people, investment and creativity (economics);
building a just society within the rule of law (safety and justice);
and addressing the legacy of the past and embedding trust, safety and partnership.
Duncan Morrow adds,
‘Sustainable peace will require years of focused work by the Assembly and Executive, setting the direction and investing resources for the development of a normal civic society. It will require concerted government action acrossALLdepartmental areas, including Justice, Economic Development, Planning, Social Development, Rural Affairs, Education and Culture.
Unfortunately departments still appear to have devised draft spending plans within too much of a silo context and the inability to develop or deliver detail on connected strategies portrays fragmentation and lack of integration. This makes it extremely difficult to detect overarching Executive priorities.
‘What is needed is a Programme for Government and a budget in which building a peaceful society is a central theme. Adequate resources should be made available to all government departments to progress this priority area. The budget has not yet sufficiently recognized the interconnectedness between prosperity and creating a stable society, which must be a concern for us all.’
Note to Editor
CRC recommendations in its consultation response:
· This Executive budget does not appear to recognise that division is an economic issue and CRC calls on the Executive to amend the draft budget ensuring it creates direct routes to address safety, equality, trust and economics together.
· The Executive should urgently produce a Programme for Government (PfG). The PfG should include a Public Service Agreement (PSA) on CSI and should include actions to transform interfaces.