Sinn Fein have pulled the tired old rabbit of RPA out of the hat as part of their answer to the financial squeeze. It is at least progress that they are accepting there is a problem rather than the denial that continues to the party faithful. Regrettably RPA doesn't come even close to providing us with a solution.
It is estimated that in the next four years that our budget will be cut by approximately £1.5-2 billion. So cash in the next four years is the priority. There are five options as regards RPA with Option 5 producing the greatest level of savings - the £400m that is oft mntion but £438,682,338 to be exact. However, these savings are spread over 25 years. The economic appraisal estimates that it would produce an annual saving of £41m. However, the savings come with one-off implementation costs of £126.6 m. This means real savings don't come in the early years, a problem they are wrestling with at a nation level. We'd also have to find the £126.6m from somewhere, this would require even deeper cuts now, not less.
Also Option 5 includes setting up a strategic waste authority and a business services organisation. This produces £280m of the savings. Sinn Fein opposed these elements at the Executive. The £438m in savings can't be reached without them. So either SF is preparing to reverse its position or it is misrepresenting how much would be saved. There is also a need to be honest about RPA. It is not simply a book movement of cash but will involve the pain of job losses.
PS As for ESA a number of amendments to the legislation and it could pass. However, the standard answer for why this has not occurred applies, Catriona Ruane.
PPS This also does not mean RPA is a bad idea but simply that it is not the solution our immediate budget problems.