Cost of cross-border alliance £11.2m p.a.
THE cost of cross-border co-operation including paying for southern students at Magee and the ‘tech,’ and southern patients accessing A&E, GUM and other outpatient services in the Western Trust, is £11.2m per year, according to the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
The Sentinel can today reveal the cost of cross-border co-operation as outlined by an audit completed last summer, which excluded, however, the annual costs and savings of the North South bodies.
The audit was carried out as part of the work of the Budget Review Group. Mr Wilson asked each Stormont Department for an assessment of the costs and benefits accruing from cross-border co-operation.
During the 2011/12 financial year Stormont departments identified just £327k in cross-border savings but £11.57m in cross-border costs.
Mr Wilson explained: “The Budget Review Group had asked for some information as regards the possible level of savings from practical co-operation in the operational delivery of services between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, within existing structures.”
Significantly, “Departments were informed that this exercise excluded the activities of North South bodies.”
The review showed the vast majority of the annual costs were incurred by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL). It paid £8.34m to facilitate Republic of Ireland (ROI) domiciled students attending NI Further Education colleges in 2011/12.
DEL also accounted for the second biggest cost incurred via cross-border co-operation by spending £1.57m to put ROI domiciled residents through NI vocational training courses.
Elsewhere, the Department of Education (DE) forked out £750k for the net movement of 260 ROI resident pupils to schools in NI.
The next biggest cost was incurred by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS). For example, the cost of providing A&E, GUM and Other Outpatient services to ROI residents in the Western Trust was £555k.
In the Belfast Trust ROI residents “receiving services which were not recharged to the ROI (including HIV service which ROI is refusing to fund)” cost £355k.
And although the DHSSPS couldn’t quantify the cost, it suggested persons resident in the ROI were also accessing treatment, which they were not entitled to. The Department suggested this could be costing up to £30k per person.
The Department of the Environment (DoE) also couldn’t quantify the cost of carrying out consultations when an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was expected to have an affect on ROI. Eight other Stormont Departments revealed that no cost was incurred through cross-border co-operation in 2011/12.
On the other side of the balance sheet £327k was saved through co-operation with Dublin, according to Mr Wilson’s figures.
The Department of Regional Development (DRD) made the biggest saving by co-operating with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the south to recover £90k in parking fines that had been imposed on ROI vehicles. DRD also saved £60k on a joint tender for on-board catering on the Dublin to Belfast Enterprise rail service.
DHSSPS made the second biggest saving of £87k. The savings were made through cross-border services for Oral Surgery, Renal Services and Neo-Natal services in the Western Trust. The Western Trust savings were based on a 10 per cent contribution to overheads.
The Department of the Environment (DoE) said it saved £50k by co-operating with its southern counterpart to tackle the issue of invasive alien species.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) said it saved £40k a year by jointly tendering with its southern counterpart for an emergency supply of Carbon Dioxide in case of the event of an epizootic disease outbreak - that is, a major animal epidemic that could affect public health or the environment.
Other Departments identified potential savings but either couldn’t quantify them or said they came to next to nothing.
For example, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service’s (NIAS) co-operation on cross-border services provided a more timely response but released only negligible savings.
And some highly-specialised services in the Belfast Trust were sustained partly by southern patient demand but no savings figure was supplied.
Equally, the Department of Justice (DoJ) didn’t know how much was saved by its cross-border policing strategy.
And the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) said there were a number of areas where DCAL co-operated with the ROI, for example in respect of film production, but it was not possible to quantify the savings from this work.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETINI) also said there were possible savings to consumers through the Single Electricity Market (SEM) but didn’t give a figure for potential savings to the taxpayer.
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