Spend it Like Stormont: Can you spend the NI Budget?

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A new BBC game has been created to complement the upcoming programme Spend it Like Stormont which gives players the opportunity to make critical financial decisions for Northern Ireland.

In Spend it Like Stormont presenters Tara Mills and William Crawley break down the cost of our public services and in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly speak to those in charge of government departments to find out why those services are under such strain.

Spend It Like Stormont presenters William Crawley and Tara Mills with economist, Neil Gibson

Spend It Like Stormont presenters William Crawley and Tara Mills with economist, Neil Gibson

It examines the areas of Health, Education and Justice as the three biggest spenders of our budget locally and explains how and where the money is spent.

The game which is available to play from Saturday 08 June at 9am asks players to make decisions on MLA Pay; Corporation Tax; Tuition Fees; Teachers Pay; Travel for the Over 60s and School Transport. Players will asked if they want to keep funding in those areas or given a choice on what else they could spend the money on. They will then be informed of the consequences of these decisions.

The game was developed with the Economic Policy Centre at Ulster University. It can be found at https://canvas-story.bbcrewind.co.uk/sites/spendit

The programme on Wednesday 12 June also asks the same questions of three groups of people aged 18-34, 35-64 and over 65s, to see what decisions they would make with the country’s coffers.

William said: “I’ve been across Northern Ireland, in our hospitals and schools to hear about the impact that increasing demand is having on our public services. It’s clear we as a society have many decisions to make about the best way to spend our money but it’s far from straightforward – while we would all like more money to spend, there’s only a limited amount to go around.”

Tara Mills said: “We often hear debates about how much money we raise in Northern Ireland and how much we get from Westminster. This programme dispels those myths and clarifies once and for all the true figures.

“We bring together different groups of people to pretend to be Finance Minister for the day. It’s fascinating to see where they would like to see money spent – and who would lose out. And there’s even the chance to play the game yourself before the programme airs.”

Tara and William are joined in the programme by one of Northern Ireland’s top economists, Neil Gibson, who helps explain some of the economic context behind government spending decisions.

The production team also worked with data experts at investigative news and analysis website The Detail. Kathryn Torney, editor of The Detail, said: “We analysed statistics on public expenditure to see how funding is currently allocated across Northern Ireland’s government departments and kept the focus on the big spenders - health, education and justice.

“With the help of the Economic Policy Centre at Ulster University, we also looked at how the money could be spent differently. Should we scrap university tuition fees, give a pay rise to teachers or increase rates bills?

“Our conclusion was that when it comes to government spending, there are no easy answers.”

Spend It Like Stormont, directed by Michael Fanning, is a Below The Radar production for BBC Northern Ireland.

Spend It Like Stormont, Wednesday 12 June, BBC One Northern Ireland, 9pm. Available to watch on the BBC iPlayer after broadcast