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DFP’s strategic policy division fulfils a wide range of functions. In addition to managing the professional economist cadre across the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the division provides a range of professional services to the Minister. Those include advice on policy issues, such as control of public sector pay, delivery of value for money, affordability in all major projects submitted to DFP and a wide range of policy analysis and support functions.
The division’s policy-analysis remit includes the local impact of UK tax and spending decisions, as well as input into the development of the Executive’s Budget. The division is now also leading on a range of concerns, such as the conacre legal challenge, the difficulties associated with the Presbyterian Mutual Society and the banking industry problems.
DFP’s strategic policy division takes the lead on developing an overarching economic strategy for Northern Ireland. That is partly because an overarching economic strategy involves policy areas that impact on many Northern Ireland Departments. For example, responsibility for skills and employment policy rests mainly with the Department for Employment and Learning; responsibility for innovation and enterprise rests with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment; and responsibility for developing infrastructure rests with the Department for Regional Development. It is also because DFP has responsibility for monitoring and controlling the use of financial resources. Only with DFP leading on that important cross-cutting area can control be exercised adequately and objectively. I hope that my answer has given a flavour of the cross-cutting nature of the work of the strategic policy division.