Who has the power of the purse if the Assembly does not agree a budget?

Piecing together a budget is one of the most fundamental activities of government. But in Northern Ireland (NI) there is currently neither a government nor a budget for the next financial year. Fresh elections have just returned a smaller number of MLAs to the Assembly. Even if a new Executive is now formed incredibly quickly, it is likely to be hard pushed to build a budget and get it approved before 31 March.

The word 'budget' spelled in Scrabble tiles
Image: Nick Youngson (Creative Commons)

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How good are Northern Ireland’s Explanatory and Financial Memoranda?

In the 2011-16 Assembly Mandate, MLAs debated, scrutinised and passed a range of legislation across a number of policy areas – from Mental Capacity to Licensing of Pavement Cafes, from Tobacco Retail to Rural Needs.  When a Bill is introduced in the Assembly, it is accompanied by an Explanatory and Financial Memorandum (EFM).  The EFM is essentially a guide to understanding the policy intentions and the cost of a proposed measure. But how useful are these EFMs?

A word cloud for Explanatory and Financial Memoranda Continue reading “How good are Northern Ireland’s Explanatory and Financial Memoranda?”

What are the key obstacles to introducing a preventative approach in Northern Ireland?

In recent years ‘Preventative Expenditure‘ (PE) has gained a high level of political consensus. There are many definitions, and this imprecision has resulted in departments sometimes claiming that all of their expenditure is preventative. Generally speaking, PE seeks to reduce public spending by investing early before problems become too severe and expensive to address. Those on the left view it as a way to reduce poverty, while those on the right view it as a way to reduce economic inactivity and ultimately service provision costs. While the idea that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is generally accepted, government’s funding of public services has rarely followed the maxim. Recent reports in the United Kingdom (UK) have identified a number of barriers when governments introduce a preventative approach, some of which are explained here.

Image of a blackboard, with the words 'Is prevention better than cure?'

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How much of what we spend on public services in Northern Ireland is paid for by locally raised tax revenue?

Northern Ireland (NI) receives a sizeable fiscal transfer from the United Kingdom (UK) Government. In other words, considerably more is spent on public services than is raised in revenue. NI therefore relies on taxpayers elsewhere in the UK. Fiscal transfers from national government to sub-national regions are commonplace; they are intended to help redress variances in local economic performance.

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Financial Transactions Capital: What is it, and how can it be used?

Financial Transactions Capital (FTC) is funding allocated to the Executive by the United Kingdom (UK) Government. The Executive has discretion over FTC allocation to projects. However, FTC can be deployed only as a loan to or equity investment in a capital project delivered by a private sector entity (‘private sector’ is defined here using the Office of National Statistics classification and includes charities and universities).

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What are Public Sector Annual Reports and Accounts and how can I access them?

Front cover of the DARD resource accounts for 2014/15The purpose of an ‘Annual Report and Accounts’ is to provide information about an entity’s financial position, changes in financial position, financial performance and cash flows. It should be useful to a wide range of users, enabling them to assess the stewardship and accountability of management for the resources entrusted to them.

The majority of public sector bodies in Northern Ireland (NI) operate a financial year which runs from 1 April to 31 March. By summer recess most public sector accounts are audited and laid in the Assembly. From July the public therefore can access a large number of audited public sector accounts on the organisation’s website.

The 2015-16 financial year has seen a number of significant changes to the format and content of Public Sector Annual Reports and Accounts. The following post sets out the reporting requirements for Public Sector Annual reports and Accounts for the 2015-16 year onwards. Continue reading “What are Public Sector Annual Reports and Accounts and how can I access them?”