Politicians face hard decisions on return to office

Sir Malcolm McKibbin, former Civil Service head and Deloitte associate, with Jackie Henry, senior partner Deloitte NI Jackie Henry and Richard Moore, senior manager in consulting at Deloitte NI
Sir Malcolm McKibbin, former Civil Service head and Deloitte associate, with Jackie Henry, senior partner Deloitte NI Jackie Henry and Richard Moore, senior manager in consulting at Deloitte NI

Any restored devolved executive at Stormont needs to work more collaboratively if struggling public services are to be secured, the former head of the civil service has said.

Sir Malcolm McKibbin said ministers would need to take tough and brave decisions in order to secure the sustainability of key services in the future.

Helping to launch a new report outlining a number of suggested ways to reconfigure how public money is spent in the region, Sir Malcolm painted a bleak picture of the status quo.

He said there had been a “gradual deterioration” across the public services, with a number apparently approaching a “cliff edge”.

Sir Malcolm said problems caused by ongoing Treasury constraints on public spending had been compounded by the near two-year absence of a devolved government.

He said Brexit had only added a further layer of complexity.

The region’s former top civil servant has worked with global consultants Deloitte to produce a detailed analysis of public service delivery in Northern Ireland and how it could be improved.

The State of the State report offers a range of ideas, many suggesting new technology and digitisation to streamline and rethink traditional models of delivery.

“There are major issues around the constraints on public sector spending and on the sustainability of public services and this report is geared at trying to identify options that would help us meet those challenges,” said Sir Malcolm.

“I think most people would admit there has been a gradual deterioration in a number of public services - there are reports some are approaching the proverbial cliff edge.

“I do think it’s a particularly challenging time and whenever you add on the issues surrounding Brexit and the amount of time that is consuming quite throughout the United Kingdom it is an additional layer of complexity and challenge that does makes this a difficult time.”

He said the lack of decision making at Stormont was having an impact.