Assembly Election

Executive's next programme for government ‘more focused on outcomes'

Stormont's programme for government will have a different look and feel than its predecessor. Picture by Mal McCann

THE executive's next programme for government will "look and feel quite different" from its predecessor, according to one of those closely involved in the negotiations.

A proposed policy blueprint drafted over recent months by the DUP and Sinn Féin was shared on Tuesday with the three smaller parties who can potentially join the government.

Initial reaction from the Ulster Unionists and SDLP was muted. Both parties are keeping their powder dry on whether they will endorse the plan later this month before taking a seat in the executive.

The alternative will be to join Stormont's first official opposition, a move made possible by former MLA John McCallister's private members bill in the last term.

A source involved in finalising the programme for government said the approach this time around differed from the process in 2011.

"Previously there was a long list of actions and not much strategic focus," he told The Irish News.

"This time around we are using something more akin to the Scottish model, which is more outcome-focused."

In some policy areas, the plan will look beyond the five-year mandate and seek to "break away from departmental silos" and involve local government to a greater extent.

A comprehensive policy framework will be published ahead of an eight-week consultation later this month, before a finalised programme and corresponding budget will be presented to the assembly in the autumn.

There will be additional strategies published covering social policy, capital spending and the economy, the source said.

"We are taking a different approach this time which means it will look and feel quite different."

The parties are expected to make a formal response to the first draft plan tomorrow ahead of more negotiations next Tuesday.

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said significant changes would be needed before his party would sign up.

"We are a long, long way off," he said.

"We need to work very hard and intensively over the next weeks to make sure we have a substantial programme for government that we can all sign up to - we will only sign up to one that actually meets the needs of the people who have been left behind."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who was last night briefed by Chief Constable George Hamilton, said there had been no change in the security situation since last year when the Provisional IRA was blamed for killing Kevin McGuigan in Belfast's Short Strand.

"This is not surprising, but disappointing, given PIRA have drawn the road map that others are following," Mr Nesbitt said.

"George Hamilton would not be drawn on this week`s shootings, but these are serious criminal acts."

The UUP leader said the chief constable`s assessment did not make re-entry to the executive "any more attractive".

However, he said the party had "two other tests" regarding the programme for government for which answers would soon be forthcoming.

The first assembly sitting of the new mandate will take place tomorrow where Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness are expected to be reappointed as first minister and deputy first minister.

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Assembly Election