Analysis of DUP Manifesto
With the election already well underway, just one party to date has published its manifesto. The DUP Manifesto “Our Plan for Northern Ireland” combines a defence of its record in office with an outline of its key policy priorities personalised around party leader Arlene Foster so the key sections are entitled “Arlene’s Vision for Northern Ireland” and “Arlene’s Plan for Northern Ireland.” There are a number of interesting policy initiatives but like all such documents it is short on detail.
On Corporation Tax the party remains committed to delivering the 12.5% rate in 2018, but given the lowering of UK Corporation Tax states that it is now “open” to lowering it further to 10%. There is no analysis of how that would impact other budgets. But the party says it will be a key plank in its aspiration to create an additional 50,000 jobs.
In education the party reaffirms its support for academic selection whilst at the same time stating its determination to combat educational disadvantage, saying that it would mainstream the Numeracy and Literacy Signature Project. It criticises the Education Department for not having done so to date. It reaffirms its commitment to an effective Early Years strategy aimed at 0 -3 year olds.
The DUP also states its determination to pursue what it calls an educational equality agenda. “This includes tackling the preferential treatment of Irish Medium in school build, the abolition of the Catholic Teacher Training Certificate, an end to the Article 71 exemption for teaching from Fair Employment as well as a fairer and better funding formula for schools”
There is no mention of Integrated Education in the document but the party does commit to investment in Shared Education, stating: “the DUP believes that sharing can produce educational, societal and economic benefits, without undermining sound academic standards or the values of schools.”
The section on university tuition fees is a little more cryptic: “The DUP remains fully committed to maintaining University fees at a level that will keep University places affordable and allow access to everyone in our society”
The party makes some of its boldest pledges on Health spending and reform, stating it will increase health spending by a billion pounds per annum by the end of the next Assembly and that £30 million will be available every year to fund the costs of reform. It does not say where this additional money will come from.
There is support for Rafael Bengoa’s review of the Health Service but no mention of Transforming Your Care, the government’s faltering reform programme, Perhaps Bengoa’s work will lead to the same conclusions, and the initiative will be re-badged? There is no mention of the thorniest issue involved in health reform: the fact we have too many acute hospitals.
There are pledges for more doctors and nurses, increased investment in mental health and a renewed commitment to the public health agenda. It will be interesting to see how the party proposes to address the current shortage of nurses.
There are two other aspects of note. One is a pledge to establish a Commission on Adult Care and Support to look at how this vital sector might be safeguarded. It highlights the Buurtzorg community care model in the Netherlands as an example of best practice. This is a home care service run and operated by nurses rather than the domiciliary care service we currently have in Northern Ireland.
Finally the DUP wants to digitise patient records, both to speed up the service and allow Trusts to get a more accurate picture of needs in their respective areas.
The manifesto does not specifically address Welfare Reform but it makes two pledges for older people: the retention of free public transport for the over 60s and retaining the lone pensioners’ allowance. And for those who have their 100th birthdays in 2021 there is a special treat in store: the party would award each of them £1,000 to celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary.
Carers are also referred to. The DUP acknowledges that the ability to support the 67,500 in Northern Ireland who receive carers’ allowances rests with Westminster not Stormont but states it will look at providing both rates relief and free public transport for this group.
The party also has plenty to say about the justice system as well, with proposals to introduce problem-solving courts and also an online dispute resolution system for civil cases. It also favours the setting up of a fund to help individuals in cases where Legal Aid is no longer available. Finally it supports the full introduction of body cameras for police officers and introducing cameras into some courts, citing the Court of Appeal as an example.
The DUP has some interesting commitments regarding the environment: for example increasing the amount of woodland in Northern Ireland and also developing a Greenways network across all council areas to provide traffic-free space for walkers and cyclists.
One aspect of the manifesto that has attracted media attention is that the DUP now supports publishing information on donations to political parties, a significant reversal of previous policy. It also wants to see a ban on political donations from outside the UK.
There is no policy on the Arts outlined in the DUP manifesto
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