Alliance Culture Spokesperson, Alderman Kieran McCarthy MLA, has welcomed comments by Minister of State David Hanson saying that funding should be measured by the outcomes delivered from it, rather than the total amount given out. He said, however, that achieving this would require a fundamental change of culture within Government.
The Strangford Assembly member stated: “I am delighted that at last we have a Minister prepared to engage in reality rather than platitudes. Minister Hanson is entirely right to identify that some communities are getting much less value than others for the amount of money put in.”
Politicians have for too long let down communities by blethering on about ‘equality of funding’ while ignoring totally the equality and quality of outcomes. For too long we have heard simplistic nonsense about ‘equal funding’ where the benefit of projects cannot be proved. People would be better focusing on taking responsibility for developing community infrastructure so that every pound of funding is spent to the benefit of the whole community.
As a result, officials have consistently failed to grasp the reality that just because a policy or a funding project works in one area, this does not mean it is applicable to other areas. Different communities have fundamentally different requirements and different capacities to deliver with the funding they are given. Until we base funding on identified requirement, rather than just giving communities money based on what ‘the other side’ has, discrepancies in the actual benefit of funding will remain.
The natural consequence of what the Minister has said would be limiting ongoing discussion of ‘Nationalist communities’ and ‘Loyalist communities’. No one should deny the reality of segregation here, particularly in urban areas. But the focus on funding for ‘one side’ or ‘the other side’ is threatening the long-term development of social and economic policy on the as is of integration and what is good for everyone. For that is the only way the severe problems in our deprived areas — from education to health to crime — can be dealt with properly.
The Minister has started the ball rolling in the right direction. However, it will take a fundamental change of culture within the larger political parties and within Government for his sensible words to become sensible actions. However, the focus on outcome rather than input deserves full support.