Hamilton seeks reform of Northern Ireland’s public sector

Minister of Finance says North no longer has luxury of being able to ‘throw money at its problems’

Northern Ireland Minister of Finance Simon Hamilton said “tough times lie ahead” and the best way forward for Northern Ireland was to reform its large public sector. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye/PA Wire

Northern Ireland Minister of Finance Simon Hamilton said “tough times lie ahead” and the best way forward for Northern Ireland was to reform its large public sector. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye/PA Wire

Fri, Aug 2, 2013, 01:00


Northern Ireland’s new Minister of Finance has warned that the North no longer has the luxury of being able to “throw money at its problems”.

Simon Hamilton, who was appointed Minister of Finance and Personnel on Monday, said “tough times lie ahead” and the best way forward for Northern Ireland was to reform its large public sector.

Mr Hamilton, the DUP MLA for Strangford, is adamant that public sector reform can develop the North’s economy and that the local public sector, which employs roughly one- third of the workforce, should not necessarily be viewed as an “encumbrance”.

“Large public sectors and competitive economies aren’t mutually exclusive,” the Minister told leading members of the Northern Ireland business community yesterday during his first key note address since his appointment to office.


Key priorities
Mr Hamilton outlined his key priorities to an invited audience of members of the Confederation of British Industry in Belfast. The CBI has long supported public sector reform in the North and has welcomed the new Minister’s desire to shake up the structure.

Mr Hamilton said meeting the expectations of a demanding public with “ever fewer resources” would be the driving factor for him in his new role.

Mr Hamilton said one of his first actions as Minister had been to establish a public sector reform division within his department. He said he wanted to look at how services were delivered in the North and who delivered them.

He told the business community yesterday that he was keen to work with them to “devise solutions” to tackle some of the North’s key economic issues.