Selling off our assets is one way to balance that fantasy budget

A budge will be put forward for approval at Stormont next week
A budge will be put forward for approval at Stormont next week

Once a year I sit down with a fortifying drink and work out how much we need to run our household for the next 12 months and check it against how much I spent the year before.

Occasionally I can be pleasantly surprised that we haven’t overspent but that’s assuming, of course, that we’re both entirely honest about the other’s household spending.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

Not owning up is different to fibbing so we agreed a long time ago not to include our own personal spending since I always argue that his hobbies – boats and motorbikes – are much more expensive than mine – the odd new outfit, lunches out, that sort of thing. It’s easy to see why the household budget has to be separate.

That annual budget is, I suppose, a fantasy one – by that I mean it’s unpredictable and can go up or down, each of us, at times, accusing the other of stupidity or over spending. I suppose I could liken it to the sort of thing our peers at Stormont are planning to put forward next week for approval but which won’t get approval because it proposes a partially unfunded spending plan.

If you can keep up let me bore you a little more by way of explanation. DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster’s budget has an eye-watering big hole in it - £600 million to be precise – and she hopes this will be filled soon by agreement on welfare reform.

With intransigent Republican and Nationalist politicians against her on welfare reform she could end up with her nails chewed to the quick.

My current household budget has a bit of a hole in it too but I really wanted a new steam cleaner to replace one I bought which turned out to be a cheapskate thing which didn’t last as Himself so accurately predicated but I didn’t listen, being a bit of a sucker for a so-called bargain

Yet I think I’ve found a very practical solution for our hapless politicians facing that fantasy budget.

After all our First Minister has already suffered a heart attack, no doubt partly due to stress, we don’t want the others to suffer too. Now do we? They should take a tip from the Italian Government which is to “offer a portfolio of publicly owned castles, monasteries, palaces and lighthouses to the highest bidder’’ to help pay the shortfall in their own budget.

Already they have leased a 19th century lighthouse on a cliff in Sardinia which has been turned into a hotel with an infinity pool and two Jacuzzis. What a magnificent idea. Our collective imagination can surely run riot.

We could offload Belfast City Hall for a start since it’s a regular scene of acrimony anyway. If they want to fight and argue so much then they could take it in turns to meet in AOH and Orange Halls once a month. The chairs won’t be so comfortable and they would have to take their own sandwiches and flask but that would be no bad thing and it would encourage them to agree more quickly just to get out of the place.

There’s Derry’s Guildhall too, a fabulous building which could fetch a good price through a 50-year lease. Who wouldn’t want to lease either, Carrick’s magnificent Norman Castle or the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, not to mention our current star attraction Titanic Quarter.

In fact we have 189 historic monuments in state care including castles, forts and ruins. They could add up to a tidy sum.

We also have a range of fabulous district council offices in commanding positions, usually town centres or nearby. What finance wouldn’t those raise if the civil servants were found more humble accommodation in industrial estates? I’m sure Mrs Foster would have her own personal favourites.

She should invite the public to draw up a list. So much more fun than battling over welfare reform.