Every year, when the budget is published, I write about its implications for Waterways Ireland. But it is not easy to say exactly how much money WI will be getting.
The first problem is that the figures for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht don’t actually say how much it intends to give to Waterways Ireland: it’s subsumed under northsouthery, along with An Foras Teanga, which is Foras na Gaeilge plus Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch. The last time there was a breakdown was in 2011, when WI got 60% of the total northsouthery amount for current expenditure and 100% of the total for capital expenditure. In commenting on later budgets, I have assumed that the same ratios applied, but could not be sure that that was so.
The second problem is that the figures given in the RoI budget represent only 85% of WI’s total current budget; the remaining 15% is paid by the NI Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Furthermore, each department pays for capital works in its own jurisdiction, and there is no fixed relationship between the amount to be spent in one jurisdiction and that to be spent in the other.
The third problem is that ministers, speaking about the matter, don’t necessarily make it clear which portion of WI’s budget they’re talking about.
The fourth problem is that, at least in theory, the budget has to be approved by the North/South Ministerial Council, so it’s not official until that has happened. From what I can gather — in other words, if I’m correctly interpreting the Joint Communiqué of the NSMC Inland Waterways meeting of 19 June 2013 — budgets are not approved until after the end of the year in which the money is spent:
Ministers approved Waterways Ireland Business Plan for 2012 and recommended the Budget provision of €31.15m (£27.10m).
I’m not clear to whom that recommendation was made, and whether or when the recommendation was accepted or approved; I can’t find anything about it in the Joint Communiqués of the NSMC Plenary Meetings of 5 July 2013 or 8 November 2013. I have emailed the NSMC to seek enlightenment.
The fifth problem is that little information comes from WI’s end: it doesn’t publish an annual plan, and it seeks likely that its medium-term plan won’t be published until after the current plan expires at the end of 2013. The NSMC waterways meeting of 20 November 2013 said:
Ministers noted that Sponsor Departments are working together with Waterways Ireland to finalise the Business Plan and Budget 2014 and the Corporate Plan 2014-2016 and will bring forward for approval at a future NSMC meeting following approval from both Finance Departments.
And even looking backwards involves a delay: Waterways Ireland’s annual report and accounts for 2012 have not yet been published.
All of that is by way of background to another note about WI’s financial prospects in 2014 and beyond.