Public Spending Cuts To Get Worse – Hamilton

Public spending cuts in Northern Ireland will get much worse before they get better, the Finance Minister has warned.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said that although the economy was starting to recover, public spending "won't do the same", with further challenges remaining.

He said: "Even though we are now most certainly on the road to recovery, challenges remain ahead. For me, one of the biggest challenges will be reconciling the belief that many will hold that because the economy is slowly but surely moving in the right direction with the reality that public spending won't do the same.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the next number of years will eclipse even the last four years of austerity. I don't like having to issue stark warnings about the future. But I wouldn't be doing my job if I give people the impression that just because the economy is improving, public spending will automatically see the benefit."

Minister Hamilton then went on to highlight the need to change the way public services are delivered in Northern Ireland and explained his strong focus on reform. He continued: "If there is a positive to several more years of austerity it is that it encourages us to focus on and face up to the choice before us.

"We can choose the path that sees government protect itself by pushing the pain towards the people through crude cuts to public services. Or we can embrace the opportunity that crisis and challenge presents to do things differently.

"My focus on reforming and improving public services hasn't been driven by political ideology. It has been motivated by practical reality. It is the only answer that I see to dealing with the conundrum that virtually every government now faces – how do you meet the public's expectations by delivering services that obtain better outcomes when you have far less money?"

Hamilton also emphasised that while reform wouldn't be easy, it was essential.

"Reform won't be without its naysayers," he admitted. "People for their own particular, often vested, reasons, will seek to place barriers in our way. But change is not an optional extra. It must become a central element of government policy.

"We have begun to transform our economy. Reforming and improving public services will be every bit as challenging but no less important. Just as we are committed to building a world class economy in Northern Ireland, let's us too dedicate ourselves to developing a truly innovative public sector."


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