‘Our Vision for You – The Voter’ is our reaction to what we’re being told outside the Stormont bubble.
We hear, daily and consistently, that Northern Ireland is not working properly. The problem is poor political leadership – devolution is nowhere near as good as it gets.
We need leaders who make decisions. You were promised 5,000 new jobs and a £300 million investment at Maze Long Kesh, but the reality is a largely vacant lot. You were promised the best training facilities in the world for our emergency services at Desertcreat. The reality is a green field. Y
ou were promised an £80 million spend on poverty, but when the end date came, OFMDFM still had £78.5 million in the joint corporate bank account. It would not be acceptable in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Dublin. So why do we tolerate it in Belfast?
Our vision is of healthier, happier, wealthier people. The recent Budget document defines the problem. Simply put, our people bump along with about 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the individual wealth of our cousins in England, Scotland and Wales.
The document also makes clear the gap was at its narrowest in 2007 – the year Sinn Féin and the DUP took control of government! Our vision is to close that gap.
But our vision embraces a broader view of prosperity than financial wealth. We want wellbeing at the heart of how we measure the success of government. Positive answers are needed to questions like “Do you feel good?” “Are you happy with you social life?” “How satisfied are you with your family life?” Wellbeing is at the centre of our vision.
To make Northern Ireland work, we need to change the mind-set on the Stormont Estate. We look forward to fewer government departments after the election.
Smaller should be better, but it is more important to change the culture and refocus on the ultimate purpose of government, to make positive changes in people’s lives. That requires us trusting our people to know what is in their best interests and start devolving power further – off the hill, through the councils, and into communities, as close to the family unit as possible.
And, of course, our vision includes the introduction of an official Opposition. Governments stay better focused when they know the electorate can vote for change.
We need a long-term plan. By 2050, our infrastructure will all have needed replaced, renewed or refurbished, so let’s start now and make the good decisions about the future of our hospitals, schools and roads.
Alongside that, we will return the focus to fostering the creativity of our people. People are the jewel in our crown. We produce world-class inventors, engineers, scientists, artists, sportspeople. We’ve had Our Time and Our Place.
It’s now time for Our People. For their sake, it is time, time to Make It Work.
• Mike Nesbitt is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party