UUP "opposing unfair taxes"

The Ulster Unionist Party has published a detailed mini manifesto on the issue of water charges and rates reform.

Ulster Unionists reject the Direct Rule Administration’s proposals for rates reform. They fail to take account of the impact of rising house prices, would hurt those who are asset rich but cash poor (i.e. the elderly) and – according to the Government’s own assessment – would not create a burden shared equally across the whole community.

The document also rules out a switch to a Liberal Democrat/Alliance local income tax as it would “(destroy) jobs and the incentive to work”.

It supports levying local taxation to property, but not on the basis of capital values and in a way that would “protect older citizens”

The Government are planning to impose a water tax on the people of Northern Ireland. You will pay this tax not on the basis of the water you use, but on how much the Government thinks your house is worth. The average water charge bill will be £340 p.a.

Our water service should receive the equivalent level of Treasury investment as the £1.6 billion the water services on the mainland received in the later 1980s/early 1990s – contributed to by taxpayers in Northern Ireland.

In short, the document proposes that taxpayers should not be expected to pay for years of underinvestment in a way that is unfair and hits those least able to pay most.

  • AW

    Nothing new here. Tell me a political party that is not saying this.

    What I would like to know is where were the UUP, SDLP, SF and DUP when this whole process started ie when they were all in office. OOPs collective memory loss. The direct rule bit is ever so convenient now.

    How would a local income tax destroy jobs anymore than the current daft rating system?

  • Mark McGregor

    Water charges are a direct consequence of the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative (RRI). When Trimble, Mallon and Farren agreed this side deal with the British exchequer Farren admitted it was dependent on reform of the water service. The UUP and SDLP signed us up to water rates while in the executive for a high interest loan to cover the decades of neglected investment in our infrastructure.

    I’m still glad they are against it now.

  • Claire Waters

    What is with the folks in Ireland re water charges? Water is a limited resource. It costs money to collect it, filter it, fluorinate it, deliver it and so on. You expect this for free? Get real. Water, like electricity or gas, is a commodity with value. Pay for what you use, and deal with it.

  • Occasional Commenter

    Claire Waters,
    the same could be said for health and education.

    AW,
    I assume their problem with a local income tax is that people will see it as another reason not to work, because their rates/council tax will go up. Under the current system, you pay the same amount whether you work or not (I think)
    I think I like the idea though, but I’d like to see national, regional and local government having clearly defined distinct responsibilities and tax raising powers.

  • A.W.

    Occasional

    The problem with the current system of rates is that it falls heavy on small business irrespective of their ability to pay. If you are on low income you can get rate relief for rates due on your house but be forced into bankruptcy by the rate collection agency for arrears on your business premises.

    The increases in commercial rates in recent years really have been swinging and taxation on ability to pay would seem fairer. A small 40sq m shop near me is paying almost £3000 a year in rates this can’t be right? Also there are all sorts of anomalies; take but one a Tesco store and a carpet shop both in identical buildings would both pay the same rates as would a newsagents and a jeweller but clearly all have different profit margins so the rate burden falls heavy on particular uses.

    The system also penalises renovation and improvement as your building is of increased rentable value. This is insane get rid of it and one complete government body along with it.

    On the other hand I see lots of new council offices and am forced to ask how efficient and prudent are our councils?

  • Henry94

    I think it is fair to ask business people to pay high rates. Because their accountants will ensure they don’t pay much in the way income tax.

  • Young Fogey

    How do you (the political class in Northern Ireland collectively) expect public services to be paid for then?

  • A.W.

    Henry 94

    I think it is fair to ask business people to pay high rates

    No it is not if they can’t pay. It is no fairer than expecting the average citizen to pay a poll tax without regard to their ability to pay. Also remember that all tax is passed on so who pays for Council frivolity in the end run.

    Young Fogey

    Local income tax would be fairer.

  • charges

    What was the first thing Trimble said to the Secretary of State after the last collapse of devolution (according to the NIO sources)?

    “Bring in the water charges”

  • A.W.

    Mark

    The UUP and SDLP signed us up to water rates while in the executive for a high interest loan to cover the decades of neglected investment in our infrastructure

    I know. They were out manoeuvred and it does seem more than a little disingenuous now but I agree it is good to see them opposing but perhaps they should never have agreed in the first place.

  • tiny

    The problem of using the value of property to set a water rate is that it disadvantages those living in Hillsborough who will end up paying more than someone in the same size of house in West Tyrone, it would be fairer if houses were banded in terms of size as oppossed to value.

  • Claire Waters

    I live in Canada now. We have a meter attached to our water pipe (and to our Gas and to our Hydro (Electricity). The more you use, the more you pay, the less you use, the less you pay. What a concept. Each municipality has its own costs and funnily enough its own charges. People who can afford to live in expensive houses pay higher property charges and vice versa. Of course everyone complains about paying any kind of taxes (what’s new). However, you end up with a system where services that cost the municipality to deliver, are paid for by the taxes that the municipality can raise (and these are on property, commercial and private). The Northern Ireland population is about the size of a medium municipality like greater Ottawa, but not as large as say Toronto. Incidentally, the property taxes also pay for schools. And there are two types, Public or Separate Board (Catholic). You pay your taxes to public (default) unless you choose to opt in to the Separate board. And guess what happens….I have many Protestant, Hindu, and Sikh friends etc. who choose to send their children to the Separate board, due to a mandated absence of any religious teaching at the Public school (and the perceived environment that creates). There is no religious tension. Several of our Ulster born protestant friends even have their children participate in Irish Dancing here. What a breath of fresh air.

  • A.W.

    Claire

    I am not argueing that we should not pay but that the system should be efficient and fair.

    Agree with you about the breath of fresh air the politics in this place really is stagnant.

  • Fraggle

    It seems to me that the political parties want the British taxpayer to pay. These water charges are an attempt to claw back some of the NI subvention.

  • A.W.

    Fraggle

    Remember that NI tax payers helped contribute to the investment in the Water Service in England and Wales prior to privatisation and no for many of us the argument is actually about fairness and a perception that this is the fore runner of privatisation which we really do not want. Yes we need to invest in the water and sewerage services but how do we raise the finance? We also need to ask why the service has been allowed to get into its current state and there are issues of responsibility.

    Local income tax bases on ability to pay, metering on usage but a tax based on the value of your house has no logic and does little to encourage reducing usage and measures such as rain water harvesting.

    Also should there not be a levy on the value of land rezoned to help pay for societies necessary infrastructure costs?

  • lorre

    Posted by: Claire Waters at April 26, 2005 09:08 PM “What is with the folks in Ireland re water charges? Water is a limited resource. It costs money to collect it, filter it, fluorinate it, deliver it and so on. You expect this for free? Get real. Water, like electricity or gas, is a commodity with value. Pay for what you use, and deal with it.”

    Dear Clair,

    The citizens of Northern Ireland have been paying for their water supply for centuries
    A percentage of our rates (local tax) paid to local councils yearly go towards this cost.

    It is obvious you dont understand the vast difference between England and Northern Ireland regards water supply & its charges.

    The Thatcher government sold off all water boards to private enterprise, when they realised the huge costs of maintenance it would take to modernise & maintain outdated water & sewerage systems.throughout England Then the government introduced *NEW * water charges to help these privately owned companies (and their shareholders) subsidise the huge cost. of maintaining (or replacing) out of date 19th century water & sewerage pipes.

    In Northern Ireland these systems are still public, (under the government’s resonsiblity) and all Northern ireland households pay local rates ( a council tax which includes a water and waste disposal charge.

    Northern Ireland people are already paying for their water. Why should they pay twice?

  • lorre

    “I live in Canada now. We have a meter attached to our water pipe (and to our Gas and to our Hydro (Electricity). “

    We have gas and electric meters here as well. Water meters went out of date in the 1950’s in Northern Ireland when water charges were included in local council tax (rates). I would be all in favour of introducing water meters again, instead of paying a fixed charge But the government wont install water meters.

    In England if you refuse to pay your water bills they install a slot type water meter. I intend to refuse to pay my bills when they start and then they have to install a water meter.

    The government will have to install water meters because if they just turn the water off and not install a meter it will be a health hazard.

  • davidbrew

    memo to michael Shilliday

    Ta v much for posting all these great UUP initiatives, but don’t bother. No-one’s going to change their vote because of a load of populist platitudes spewed out in a frenzy to make up for years of passivity, and in the sudden realisation that the party’s almost over. Just because Ray Boggs starts to appear on tv for the first time in a decade gabbling about the needs of the electorate doesn’t impress anyone-even, I suspect, you.

    Go out and get a girlfriend. More fun, and when she breaks your heart, there’ll be the possibility of another one coming along later. Unlike, I suspect, your political party, when the electorate breaks its heart on May 5th .

  • Scotsman

    Most of the cost of water is infrastructure- how much you then use only increases costs marginally. Domestic metering is pointless.

    In Scotland, water is publicly owned and charges are linked to Council Tax- those in the most valuable properties pay around 3 times those in the cheapest properties for both council tax and water(and sewerage). They are part of the same bill.

    Students and those in receipt of benefits (including of course the poorest pensioners) pay nothing. In England, everyone pays for water.

    Incidentally, if a low income pensioner has a large asset, say a detached house, they are not poor. They could sell up, move to a smaller place, raise cash and cut their tax bill, freeing up property for families who need bigger houses.

    Property tax is no worse than any other tax; indeed it’s about the only tax some self-employed people pay!

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    “No-one’s going to change their vote because of a load of populist platitudes spewed out in a frenzy to make up for years of passivity”

    Worked for the DUP for years…

    As for the water charges, I have no problem with their introduction if they’re fair. Despite the majority of the cost being in infrastructure I’d still propose metering because it will encourage people to conserve water – or at least cost more to those who don’t.

  • Alan2

    Must sort out the old well, get a pump installed and disconnect the mains.

  • Jo

    Lorre:

    “The citizens of Northern Ireland have been paying for their water supply for centuries (??????????????????)
    A percentage of our rates (local tax) paid to local councils yearly go towards this cost.”

    ………………………..

    This percentage is no longer calculable as the regional rate element of your bill (£400 million) is supposed to be a contribution to ALL services. Do you know how much water service costs?
    A: Almost £400 million.

    Therefore to remove water services from the regional rate would leave people here contributing next to nothing for other services.
    …………………………..
    It is obvious you dont understand the vast difference between England and Northern Ireland regards water supply & its charges……………………………..

    Equally, Iim afraid you dont understand what you pay, what you pay for and the fact that we pay a heck of a lot less here than any equivalent in England wales or Scotland.

    Wake up and smell the sewerage!

    Northern Ireland people are already paying for their water. Why should they pay twice?

    ………..

    They arent paying enough! Its literally payback time for the Troubles, folks!

  • Dessertspoon

    So once again the majority will pay for the actions of the minority. Why don’t the ARA put all their recovered money into water. I know it’s not much so far but if it’s the Troubles that are the reason so much of our infrastructure was underinvested in the terrorists should pay. Or maybe the polticians should pay – their wages could be diverted into the water fund afterall their inability to do their jobs prolonged the Troubles and is stalling the peace. (Still waiting for my dividend!!)

    Small point to Jo – England, Scotland and Wales pay more – yes they do. They also pay less for many more things (electricity and gas for example), they are not overcharged for goods and services or excluded simply because they live acorss some water, they have a greater market from which to choose the competition in which keeps prices down (I know some people in the Highlands have issues too) and Norn Iron people earn considerably less than their mainland counterparts.

    We pay less because we can’t afford to pay more. Discuss

  • George

    Dessertspoon,
    If you can’t afford to pay more then you get less not pay less. That is a simple economic rule.

    It is not the troubles that are to blame, it is the underinvestment by the unaccountable NIO during this time and the fact that none of NI politicians, according to Jim Wells of the DUP, even knew there was underinvestment.

    And unionists think direct rule is a good idea! You get what you deserve in this world and if the people of Northern Ireland are happy with the NIO running the place then they deserve the water charges.

  • Dessertspoon

    Not terrorists who are to blame – ok fair enough that’s your opinion but we were spending a hell of a lot of money on security for some reason. And that money because it was being spent on security couldn’t be spent elsewhere. That said I agree you get what you deserve and if the people in Norn Iron are too small minded to see what they (nevermind the NIO) are doing to the place there is not a lot we can do about it.

    Your economic rule is very true too except that I’ve been told by numerous polticians that the rich should pay more (and get exactly the same) as the those who can’t pay as much in other words they subsidise the poorer. Maybe that’s a bit socialist for you George maybe you’re a bit more right wing capitalist than me…