28/04/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.

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Northern Ireland: The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, on what he


sees as a new confidence in the economy.


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2295 seconds


Plus the challenge ahead for local Northern Ireland. Could Northern


Ireland become the UK's economic Merkel? The First Minister thinks so


and has used the Spring Conference and Enniskillen to hammer home how


the devolution of corporation tax would transform economic fortunes.


With unemployment at a 15 year high and per economic growth, we asked


the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson what more can be done to boost the


economy? And power to the people, as the plan to make 26 councils until


11 takes a step forward, what do councillors make of the new


responsibilities? Joining me to look at the political developments are


Gerry Morriarty, Northern Editor of the Irish Times and Sam McBride


political correspondent of the News Letter. Are you glass half empty


glass half full? We may have narrowly missed a triple dip


recession in the economy but are there any green shoots? The latest


economic figures show there has been growth over the last year, albeit


though it is low, but is the economy on the turn? The Finance Minister


Sammy Wilson is with me. Are you optimistic? It is always important


to be optimistic because I recognise that if people do not have


confidence, even if the economy is doing relatively well, of course


they will be reluctant to spend and to invest. People will be fearful of


their jobs. Why you -- while you cannot ignore economic facts, if you


on top of pool economic performance, took the economy down, it will


discourage people from doing the kind of things that we need to pull


us out of the recession. You have a difficult job. While you do not want


to talk the economy down, it is difficult to read. Economic growth


was not point 3% for 20 12. The construction sector is struggling at


the moment. You cannot wish those factors away. Let me put the other


facts to you. Normally Northern Ireland with the right at the bottom


in terms of employment and other economic factors. We are not. Over


the last year, the figures show we have grown by 0.4% and there are


already signs in the construction industry of an upturn in --. Arlene


Foster is announcing new investment in Northern Ireland. Last week over


140 new jobs from firms within Northern Ireland and outside the


country, at a high tech level and lower levels of income, there are


other things where we are the second most attractive region outside


London. I would say that yes, of course, not all of the economic


indicators are showing a bright future. But they are not showing a


black future that people are trying to present. Are those the green


shoots of recovery? I think they are. The economy is slowly turning


around, obviously not as fast as we need. In terms of employment, over


the last year, the number of jobs are available in Northern Ireland


has gone up I nearly 2000 in the middle of a recession. -- gone up by


nearly. The Federation of Master builders has said that construction


firms in Northern Ireland are showing more optimism. We are


increasing exports. We are looking for new markets. All of those things


show that we are not the difficult case that people are trying to


portray, and there are reasons to be confident. What about corporation


tax? Your party leader at the Spring Conference last night said the


reduction of corporation tax for Northern Ireland could be a game


changer. Is that how you see it? want to see corporation tax default.


-- we want to see the devolution -- the devolution of corporation tax.


How much longer can we wait Minister? It must be one of the


elements that we look at. But the Prime Minister has made it clear


there will be no decision until September 2014. Maybe it will come


after that. We have been waiting a long time. Peter Robinson said last


night there should be no plan B. are disappointed. This was a


Conservative commitment and started off of the Conservative Party saying


that you want to see the economy in Northern Ireland being restructured.


This is a means by which we could see this happening and then they


walk away from it! Politically I think they are wrong and I think


they have given Alex Salmond a very important lever to hit them over the


head with. But we will continue to press for it. In the meantime the


first and deputy worst minister will be looking at an economic pact with


the government at Westminster and there are some ideas there. --


Deputy First Minister. Out the DUP and other parties handled the flag


disputed did not help grow the economy in Northern Ireland, did it?


We have been prepared to take some leadership over this and tell people


it was wrong and damaging the economy. Hopefully with a lot of the


work that has gone on behind-the-scenes, the problem has


gone away, despite attempts by many people to reinvigorate the issue.


There are many issues like that that are going to be damaging to the


economy, but those who want Northern Ireland to succeed, including many


of those who were in gates to the protest, they should realise it is


not in their interests to hurt the economy of Northern Ireland, because


they, like me, want Northern Ireland to be a place which is attractive


and workable. I am interested in one line of Peter Robinson's speech. I


want Northern Ireland to become known as the UK's economic Merkel.


Did you write that line for him? He does not need me to write his lines


for him, but we did speak about the speech. At times, and even coming up


to the current recession, Northern Ireland was performing better than


any other region of the United Kingdom. We were catching up in


terms of the UK average GDP. There is still a lot of talk about the


economic check back -- the economic package from the Theresa Villiers.


First of all, there are two elements. The first element is that


the suggestions which come forward from the Executive and we are


working on that, and secondly, a commitment from the Westminster


government. Our argument is this. We want to make the Northern Ireland


economy less pendent upon the Exchequer. There are things which


need to be done, and things which can only be done by central


government. We will not run away from our own responsibilities. We


must work on this collaboratively. You are confident this will find its


way onto the table? The other issue you were going to mention, is


whether it is linked to cohesion sharing and integration? Peter


Robinson said you do not need a document for that, but you need to


deliver on the ground. Really the only people who want a document


which is meaningless to the general public are the anoraks! Would it


be? Of course it would. People causing the problems in Northern


Ireland will not read a shiny document from the Executive.


envoy do you bother spending money and strategies? Because it


influences policies, that is why! The point that I was making is if


you want to have people feel that they have a connection to Northern


Ireland, you have an economic policy which gives them a job and enables


them to have a house, and have responsibilities. Those who must


work tomorrow those who can work, must work. Give me a clear answer to


this. Would there be a CSI document published by the Executive? I am


sure there will be eventually. I would not hold too much hope that a


document like that will radically change the situation on the ground.


What I believe is that the situation on the ground will change when real


practical things happen and people have a stake in society. We must put


in place policies which enable people to feel part of Northern


Ireland. Thank you. Let us hear from Sam McBride and Gerry Morriarty.


Cannot help asking you for your response to the Minister's comments


and the aspect and cohesion sharing and integration? I thought the


Secretary of State made a point that she is addressing sectarianism and


Division two an economic plan. How foreign she prepared to push it?


While you need an economic plan, you also need a social plan that people


can work on. I take the Minister's point that it is what is happening


in society that is important, but you need something concrete there.


That is the basis for how we will tackle this problem. Sam McBride, do


you get a sense talking to politicians that there is an


appetite for this? Quite recently it was Peter Robinson who was pushing


for the strategy to be published and it seems to be Sinn Fein who are


blocking it. In some ways, I suppose what Sammy Wilson is saying is that


this will not be published for while. If that is not such a big


thing, actions are more portent than strategies. The parties cannot agree


on that. What about the issue of corporation tax? It has not gone


away, you know? A lot of people who are not doing business are not


affected by this and are probably quite weary of this. We seem to be


going round in circles. Every time the economy is mentioned,


politicians push this idea of corporation tax. If it happens, it


will be a considerable -- considerable period down the line


and we need to look at other areas where politicians can help the


economy. It corporation tax .com, it is not going to drag us out of


recession because it is in the future. Gerry Morriarty, do you buy


into the notion of optimism as far as the economy is concerned? We do


not know whether the green shoots are there. There seem to be


indications North and South of the border, and across the water, that


things are happening. My colleagues who write and talk about economics


here, are correct when they say it could be a game changer. Next year


is not that far away. I think the ministers should keep the pressure


on, but whether it will help not, I do not know. The last time you sat


in that chair, you were at best lukewarm to changes to corporation


tax. Have you been warmed up a little? My position on this is no


different than the position of Peter Robinson. It is a big risk. It will


require us to pay money upfront and it will hopefully lead to the kind


of traction from new investment that we have seen another parts the


world. It Robinson recognises it as a risk as well. If we need a lever


which will see work elsewhere, this is one of the leverage that we


want. We must push for it. Thank you. It has been a long time coming,


but the full extent of the changes in local councils were confirmed by


the environment Minister Alex Attwood to the Assembly on Tuesday.


In April 2015 the number of councils will be reduced to 11. In a few


minutes we will hear from councillors affected by the changes


but our correspondent brings us up to date on the Review of Public


Administration. Politics in Northern Ireland has


been transformed in recent years. So much has changed but one thing has


been left unchanged - local councils. There has been numerous


delays at councils are facing a big shake-up. There will be 11 instead


of 26 and if everything goes according to plan in the next few


years, here in Belfast and elsewhere, things may never quite be


the same again. This is how the new local government map will look.


There will be smaller local councils gripped together. It is a major


overhaul. The new councils will be bigger and more powerful. The


Minister in charge says it will happen very soon. There are 700 days


to grasp an opportunity for change. I would urge all of those with


influence and all of those involved to ensure we maximise the


opportunity. This is a once in a political lifetime opportunity to


get this done and get it done right and on time. The deadline is April


2015. The list of new powers for the councils include banning, housing,


urban regeneration and local tourism. The extra powers mean that


members of the new councils will face new challenges. They will also


face a very old challenge - which flags to fly outside the new council


buildings Western Mark I am joined by Sinn Fein Magherafelt councillor


Sean McPeake and Mark Cosgrove, and Ulster Unionist councillor in


Newtownabbey. You are also the president of the Northern Ireland


Local Government Association which welcomed the money made available by


the Minister to push the change through? Do you think there is


enough money available and make it efficiently and on time? There will


never be enough, but we have to be realistic! The announcement in


January from the Executive for 48 million was a welcome step, no doubt


about it. The whole finance issue had clouded the process to date and


in some ways, still affects the momentum going forward. It creates


uncertainty. We have to look back and be realistic stop the 4 billion


cut to the Conservative budget was a major factor. If it has to be paid


for, it will either have to come from local ratepayers through the


councils, or there will have to be cuts to important sectors like


education. We have to look at the root causes of not having enough


money to move forward. We do believe that Alex Attwood is talking the


right language in saying local government has to be invented in


bridging that gap. Mark Cosgrove are you happy with the money and the new


responsibilities that will be given to the 11 new councils? No, I think


is the answer to both of those questions. The last report indicated


that local government reform would cost �118 million, and while there


has been a �40 million agreed by the Executive, that leaves a shortfall.


It is nearly 50 million. It leaves shortfall. It is very difficult to


go to -- door-to-door and talk about efficiency, you might have to ask


people for more money. The business case put forward, namely �118


million up front, and an overall saving over five years of over 400


million, indicates some saving. I would note like to have to go to the


bank manager in the current economic climate and make that argument. The


two major things that were meant to be devolved to the two major things


that were meant to be devolved when we first talked about this were


planning and local roads. We now have planning devolved and local


roads still has not been devolved. The events of the last month show


that clearly, while Roads Service and their staff do a fantastic job


on main arterial roads, having something like that close to the


people, could deliver very serious improvements to the service.


course the Minister says there will be a review of powers in April 2016.


Perhaps that could be extended? Some people, Sean McPeake, are concerned


about the extent to which new councils will be given


responsibility in areas like urban regeneration and neighbourhood


renewal? That is an awful lot of responsibility for a group of


individuals who have not had that level of responsibility in the


past? Do you accept that? I do accept that. Are councillors going


to be up to that? There will have to be capacity issues and there will


have to be money set aside for the new set of councillors to skill


themselves up. They will have to step up to the plate? They will.


Councillors have been mere consul tees at this time in dealing with


planning issues. They will be the decision-makers, 2015. They will


need to know what they can and cannot do. As well as stepping up to


the plate as far as those responsible of these are concerned,


they will not have to get bogged down in other issues, for example,


such as the flag dispute? First of all they will have to talk about


what flag will fly over the new 11 headquarters? That is the last thing


anyone needs. About the capacity of local government, let us be honest,


many counsellors provided the only democracy in this part of the United


Kingdom from the early 1970s until recently. I have no doubt about the


ability and capacity and that is why I think more things should have been


devolved. Our local government is a diminished vehicle compared to the


rest of the United Kingdom. Thank you both. Time for a look back at


the political week in 60 seconds with Martina Purdy. Children's heart


surgery looks likely to move out of Elf asked to Dublin following a


health report. Parents are periods. They are going to shut down


children's surgery from the Royal Victoria Hospital. -- parents are


furious. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister had a day out


and MLAs were confessing they are weaknesses about smoking. I plan


meetings around cigarettes. Same-sex marriage brought harmony. The reason


that we have marriage in society is because it has a special place and


it is about the nature and rearing of children. How do modern MLAs


compared to the predecessors? are dull.


That was Martina Birdie reporting. Final thought from my guests, some


muck right and Gerry Moriarty. Peter Robinson is speech was strong?


dealt with a lot of issues. He and the Deputy First Minister are still


in for a long haul. In relation to the flags, he spoke about the issue


of being a settled but delicate equilibrium. What we have had in the


last few months shows the veracity of that. Sam McBride, looking ahead


to the same-sex marriage issue which comes up at Stormont tomorrow.


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.

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