Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Backroom Boys

An Assembly research paper presented to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure details considerable progress made by the Ulster-Scots Agency in reducing the percentage of its spending on staff and administration costs, the latter apparently including such promotional activities as the handout of Santa hats at rugby matches and publication of the Ulster-Scot, the "chauvinistic and naïve" newspaper fast taking on the character of a bizarre public subsidy to the News Letter with which it is distributed.

In 2007-8 administration costs were a massive 65.17%. In 2008-9 the figure had fallen to 60.1% and a year later to 52.55%. Admittedly, that is still higher than the equivalent proportion for Foras na Gaeilge, which remained remarkably constant in the 42% to 46% range over the period, but it shows just what can be done where there is a will.

In December 2009 the BBC revealed that a DCAL civil servant had been imposed by a "livid" Nelson McCausland to take the organisation in hand, surely one instance where the former DCAL Minister's penchant for micro-management has borne fruit. The Blether Region reported on 9 March of the following year that the agency's 2010 budget envisaged a further reduction in overheads, to 36%.

One figure not contained in the Assembly researcher's report, and which not everyone on the DCAL committee will see as relevant, is the percentage of spending to go on language.

Surely, if that figure is not at least 50% of the combined total for grant and capital expenditure, the agency should not be part of An Foras Teanga.

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