Water rates: equalisation or punishment?

William Graham writing in the Irish News has been weighing up some of the more detailed policy end of Hain’s speech and finds several sticks and few carrots:

He complained for example that Northern Ireland has the highest level of per capita public spending of any economic region in the UK while conversely on locally raised revenue being well behind the rest of the UK.

Mr Hain said average household contributions (including water charges) to pay for services in England and Wales this year will be £1,275; in Scotland £1,205; yet in Northern Ireland only £546. He said this was not sustainable.

From April 2007 rates will increase and water charges will be introduced but Mr Hain promised this would be done fairly with protection for those on low incomes.

“The new water charges proposals alone will allow us to free up huge resources to other public services, potentially generating up to £300 million every year by the end of the decade,” Mr Hain said.

Eammon McCann for one is not happy:

The water charges revenue will not be public money at all. It will be private money. It will go into the coffers of a private company, not into the public purse.

On Monday, true to New Labour form, the NIO used the controversy over recent violence to slip out news that it had handed control of water treatment facilities to a consortium of private companies—including the notorious Tyco International. This outfit, based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, was in the news the same day for another reason—the jailing in New York of former chief executive Dennis Kozlowski and finance chief Mark Swartz for up to 25 years. During the case, Tyco had been exposed as a company in which law and common decency were treated with derision as its bosses looted the funds and lived like Roman emperors while treating workers and customers with contempt.

In Hain’s eyes, that didn’t make Tyco ineligible to take over a key component of our water industry. It probably enhanced their credentials.

According to Katharine Bryan, the ludicrously overpaid blow-in who was handed the job of chief executive of our Water Service, the private consortium which includes Tyco is intended to provide half the North’s water supply.

Not a single person in Northern Ireland voted for this. Not one political party has come out in favour of it. But Hain and his crew impose it on us anyway. And then he has the gall to lecture us about the need to pay more to qualify as proper British citizens!

There’s been a a lot of discussion about the root causes of recent violence in both Protestant and Catholic communities. Not enough attention has been paid to the role of cross-community rage against the arrogance, dishonesty and undemocratic behaviour of Hain, Woodward and the rest of the gang of no-goods at the NIO.

Hain has some neck to claim that we are not paying our way compared to people across the water. It’s the opposite of the truth. Families here pay over the odds when compared to Britain for gas, electricity and other fuels—not to mention necessities like food and non-alcoholic drink, clothing and footwear.

Hain has the figures available to him. He ignores them because he doesn’t give a toss for the facts of the matter. Households here pay an average of £265.20 a year more on fuel than the average for the UK. We pay £431.60 more on clothes and shoes, £213 a year more on food.

But benefit levels are the same here as there—and wages are lower.

  • Dessertspoon

    The last section of that post is very important.

    “Households here pay an average of £265.20 a year more on fuel than the average for the UK. We pay £431.60 more on clothes and shoes, £213 a year more on food.
    But benefit levels are the same here as there—and wages are lower.”

    Quick everyone write to your MP and complain get them to do something about this…oh wait there are only 18 of them and most of them don’t even go to Westminster so that won’t do much good. Let’s try the MLAs then…oh yeah they can do bugger all too. Looks like we’re stuck with this quasi dictatorship at the NIO.

    I suppose it suits our yellow bellied politicians to let the NIO inflict all of this pain, they had no real idea of how to deal with the lack of investment and need for more public spending so this way the dirty work is done by someone else and they can indulge in another of Norn Iron’s favourite sports, “Carping from the sidelines”.

  • George

    This has been flagged for years and years and years and is only the beginning of a concerted British policy to cut the subvention. Watch the next 20 years.

    Shock horror. Britain to ignore local concerns and to implement cost-cutting policy regardless.

    If there is peace in Northern Ireland, then there’s no need for special treatment and all that. No need to pay for the stability.

    It has been quite clear for some time that Britain is no longer going to subsidise Northern Ireland hand over fist and I was interested to hear that next up are all the public sector jobs with Hain promising to slash bureaucracy. El Dorado.

    Once those poor loyalists and republicans living in the most deprived areas of Western Europe stop their rioting, they’ll all start losing their community jobs too. Around 2008 if the peace holds, I’d wager.

    It doesn’t matter if it is fair or not but NI is paying too little into the union and has very few, if any, friends who will defend its corner in Westminster. Does it even have a corner any more?

    Britain is too busy building bridges and making money with the Irish Republic to worry about the troublesome north I’m afraid.

    I’m sure many British people ask what NI has done in the last 10 years to deserve special treatment? They come up the answer “nothing”.

    McCann is wrong when he says NI is paying its way.

    It is a fact that it is contributing less. So what if people from NI are paying more for food etc. The bottom line doesn’t lie.

    Can NI do anything about this? Yes, tell the NIO where it sees the necessary savings coming from.

    However, most of NI’s parties seem to think NI needs more money not more savings or change so they haven’t really worked out where to save a few hundred million or is it over a billion now?

    Only 4% “unemployment” but nearly 100,000 extra on incapacity benefit in the last 10 years. A peek into that particular hornets’ nest perhaps?

    Six times as many on incapacity benefit as unemployed in Protestant West Belfast.

    Have any of NI’s parties highlighted this disgraceful massaging of economic figures in NI, nothing more than the financial labotomy of a lost generation?

    Or maybe they are afraid of being seen as attacking those on the margins, leading to more rioting?

  • smcgiff

    “Carping from the sidelines”.

    Carping from the car park outside the stadium would probably be more accurate.

  • missfitz

    George, I find myself a bit lost with your comment. I was under the impression that my taxes go to the same place as all the other taxes collected in the UK. My contribution to the central pot for services is the same as my counterpart in Bognor Regis. Surely this means that in terms of central contribution, the NI taxpayer pays the same as any other person living in the UK.

    My rates, on the other hand are a different issue. I pay less than my colleague in Bognor Regis, but I have also come to expect a lot less. In terms of certain facilities it is certainly a case of getting what you pay for. We pay less and get less, but that is restricted to the local contribution only.

    So, I do not buy the argument of NI contributing less per capita than anyone else in the UK, but it is an argument that seems to be taking off in full flight without much to substantiate it.

  • Jacko

    Dessertspoon

    Excellent post.

  • 9countyprovience

    You reap what you sow. This is where direct rule gets you. Why would the British government listen to you? there is 50+ million in England, even Wales and Scotland get shouted down at times. That 50+ is also largely apathetic towards NI and its miniscule 1.7 mill or so.
    I’ve an idea. Why doesn’t NI form it’s own devolved government and look after it’s own internal affairs? I know this idea is far fetched but it could work. 😉

  • Jo

    The total household charge including a direct water charge for Scotland is £1216

    for England/Wales, £1158

    NI (no direct water charge) £509

    (2004-2005)

  • PaddyCanuck

    Water Charges Rep of Ireland = 0?

  • Jo

    Paddy
    General taxation = higher than UK.

  • missfitz

    I’m sure thats illuminating Jo, but perhaps it would be useful to pull this out a bit and compare services and value for money in the regions. I travel to GB on a regular basis, and it never ceases to amaze me what communities take for granted in terms of local services.

    If I am going to pay more than my present £1100 per annum in rates, here in South Down, may I humbly ask if I can expect something for it?

    Or is that an impossible fantasy, like a devolved government that can remain in existence for longer than a year or two?

  • 9countyprovience

    Jo

    There is a problem with your equation. It should be:

    General taxation + stealth tax = higher than UK.

  • George

    Missfitz,
    I’m talking about the money that the British exchequer earns from Northern Ireland as a whole, not what some people contribute.

    Britain subvents NI and this subvention is going to be reduced substantially in the coming years. Water is one area.

    Sure some people in NI pay as much as those in Bognor Regis but NI as a whole comes up over 3 billion a year short. A pretty penny.

    A much lower per capita percentage of people work in NI than in Britain for a start. I believe 36% of the total population works as opposed to around 47% in Britain and the Irish Republic.

    Also, any more are involved in public sector work rather than wealth generation.

    Hain has to address this financial deficit. He also said he was going to free up assets so expect to see huge swathes of government land and any services worth anything being sold off in the next couple of years to the highest bidder.

    Some may call it selling the family silver, Hain calls it freeing up resources.

    While Eamon McCann can talk about people in NI paying more for food, shoes and fuel, I can point out that people in NI pay on average 832 pounds a year less into their mortgages.

    As I said, it’s the bottom line that matters not individual cases.

    Families pay over the odds for some things, under the odds for others but the bottom line is that Northern Ireland as it is currently constituted is too expensive for the British exchequer.

    The only thing left for the exchequer to decied is whether it’s you or some poor sod on a deprived council estate who should foot the bill.

  • missfitz

    Well lets see George. Are we into the realm of statistics and lies? According to the last National household ssurvery (2005) in Ireland, 61% of the population worked. That is significantly different to the number you have given, so where do we start in terms of credibility?

    As to the subvention, at least a quarter of that money is being spent on the security forces in this region. So, yeah, I agree, lets cut the subvention. In fact, I’ve probably been saying that in less subtle ways for decades!

    The cut in public sector spending will of course entail continuing change, but where is the leadership who can turn this into positive action and meaningful change?

    We are in a different age and different times, but some of the themes over the past few days, indeed inclusive of Peter Hains contribution, sound eerily like the noise emitted from London in the 1920’s. Ireland was never going to make it as an independent Free State, as she was too used to being idle and supported by GB.

    While there are many aspects of DeValera’s policies I disagree with, and indeed I feel his policy of porectionism outlasted its usefulness, he was able to enable his country and give it the beginning of a sense of self- sufficiency.

    NI will never learn these lessons without a kick start, but a kick start that is accompanied by ledership, direction and purpose.

  • Harry Flashman

    It’s simple – slash the public spending, what the holy heck do all those unionised, index linked, guaranteed jobs for life civil servants that dominate the NI economy by sucking voraciously at the public tit actually do? They confiscate taxes off the wealth creating sector, send it up the line to their colleagues in Whitehall who pass it around to their mates in the welfare departments who send it back down the line again to the fellas here who dole it out to the ma’s and da’s of the spides and skiprats doing the rioting and wrecking as well as all those phenomenally healthy looking disabled people who deliver pizzas and drive taxis that were paid for and insured by you.

    But don’t despair if you actually do a productive job, you can get a 26 page booklet and answer a load of damn impertinent questions and if you’re lucky you might get back some of your hard earned cash that was taken from you with the threat of imprisonment in the form of a ‘tax credit’. If you run a business and are fortunate enough to have your property destroyed by the above mentioned spides you can get compensation in the form of money that you already paid over beforehand in income tax, VAT, corporation tax, NI contributions, capital gains tax etc.

    Not to worry however it’s always nice to hear Stalinists like McCann tell you that you are the problem and that you still haven’t had enough of your wages taken off you and redistributed to people who can’t find work in an era of 95% employment despite the mysterious ability of thousands of Poles, Latvians and Chinese to do so.

    I now sit back and wait for the teachers and social workers whose wages I pay to come on and tell me how mean, selfish and uncaring I am…guess what I am, get over it!

  • Scotsman

    Perhaps a comparison with Scotland helps.

    General identifiable spending per head is higher in Scotland than in England. Hence aggressive unionists/English nationalists tend to refer to the Scots as subsidy junkies, while Scots nationalists point to the huge revenues taken from North Sea taxes to show that an independent Scotland could spend even more.

    I don’t think anyone in NI would claim that NI comes close to funding itself. Hain can make the reasonable point that at the very least the NI population should pay local taxes at the GB level if it is to receive more per capita in departmental spending than GB.

    Incidentally, Scottish Water is a monopoly state-owned provider, though it does contract out some capital work to other water companies.

    Finally, Scots pay for water as a percentage on top of their council tax- those in big, valuable houses pay up to 3 times more than those in small, cheap houses.

    I suppose you could have free water and pay no rates- but the money would have to come out of your departmental budgets.

    I suppose an integrationist unionist in NI who might wish to have Tory, LibDem or Labour MP’s elected might have cause to complain about the democratic deficit, (ie no chance to vote on NIO decisions) but I don’t see how anyone else can. Then again, integrationists would presumably want the same taxes and services as GB!

  • PaddyCanuck

    Rates Republic of Ireland = 0

  • Ringo

    Paddy,

    What rates are you talking about? The only rates that I know of that are 0 in the Republic are residential property rates. And that isn’t anything to be proud of:

    1) the abolition of rates in the 1977 budget was one of the major factors in the Republic being almost bankrupt by the early 80’s.

    2) Local government in the republic has never recovered from the loss in that revenue stream, rendering it weak and ineffectual.

    Now, water is a different thing. We pay for our water – it is metered. And this apparent consensus of politicians in the north against water charges just goes to show how alien the politics of governance are to them.

  • Jo

    “unionised, index linked, guaranteed jobs for life civil servants that dominate the NI economy by sucking voraciously at the public tit actually do? “

    if youre genuinely interested, which I suspect youre not,what they do is provide a range of services which were once within the purview of local government who abused their control to such an extent that most of lg services were passed to central govt in 1973.

    NICS pay has been raised by a whopping 2% since April 2002, thats 0.66% a year.

    Hardly index linked is it??

  • George

    Missfitz,
    on credibility of the figures, I take it the 61% figure you are citing is of the working age population in Northern Ireland, not as a % of the overall population, which is the figure I gave.

    No matter, let’s take your figure. You say 61% of the working age population in NI are at work but figures from the Office for National Statistics
    show that 74% is the UK figure.

    It doesn’t matter what measure you take, too few people are working in Northern Ireland. That’s not a lie, that’s not a manipulated statistic, that’s an economic fact.

    On subvention, where do you derive that security is 25% of the subvention? And how much of this security figure is superfluous spending? Any evidence of that figure. I know NI budgets are difficult to track down but I would be grateful.
    The only one I have is that the NIO has a budget of 1.1 billion.

    Security is a big public sector employer no doubt but not the biggest. There are around 100,000 too many public sector workers and even the security industry isn’t that big.

    You ask where is the leadership who can turn all this into positive action and meaningful change?

    Good question. They don’t have the power to take action and the only action they can take is to recommend to the NIO which cuts it should implement.

    When similar cuts took place in the south in the 80s, there was pretty well unanimous agreement across the board. FG supported FF’s public spending cuts as being for the greater national good under the Tallaght strategy, for example.

    I suppose when NI’s back is really at the wall that maybe the parties will unite with a list of how they see the cuts being made but by then it may and probably will be too late.

    Can anyone suggest another way rather than the one suggested by Hain to make the figures add up and to fund future infrastructure building?

    One of the only one I have heard which may get the necessary all-party support is to reduce the size of local government.

    That’s not enough. It’s barely a start.

  • Jo

    There is also a very significant difference between public spending and the paybill for public servants.

    The former is £7500 million a year.
    The latter is £500 million a year.

    So obviously it makes sense to squeeze an element of total public spending which is actually 6% of the total..and never mind the dependence of much of the domestic economy on the wages spent by public servants in their home villages and towns…

  • Animus

    The politicians in the Assembly voted in water charges, let us not forget that.

    Personally I support water charges, but not at a flat rate. I support metering fully, so that people will use water sensibly and pay for what they are getting.

    Harry – I get tax credits and child benefit for producing a future taxpayer. Should I funnel some of that money into the hands of the private sector instead? I suppose it will all be going to Phoenix gas anyway. I don’t recall the impertinent questioning though…Maybe I just didn’t have a big enough chip on my shoulder the day I filed to notice.

  • George

    Ringo,
    industry pays for water in the Irish Republic but householders don’t. It is metered to help improve efficiency and to detect leaks, not to bill the customer.

    I agree about the abolition of rates, absolute madness for local authorities here.

    Those complaining should take a look at Germany where an average apartment in Berlin (rent 750 euros) has within its cost an annual service charge (water, refuse and pavement cleaning) of 3,000 euros.

    They also have to pay a deposit on cans and plastic bottles of coke.

    Animus,
    the cost when it comes to water is not the water but the delivery and removal infrastructure and maintaining it.

    Metering won’t lower the cost of providing water, merely the amount used. The bills would be the same.

  • Harry Flashman

    So Jo what is it that these ‘public servants’ (I love that phrase like the poor bloody public is actually the master of these leeches) do that shouldn’t be handled by the private sector? And by the private sector I mean business and charities; schools, hospitals etc are all much better organised and financially more accountable outside the dead hand of the state.

    And don’t tell me about welfare, in a full employment economy like we have there is no excuse for the appalling social welfare monster that exists.

    Not much of a pay rise! I run my own small business (gasp horror a nasty capitalist) and I haven’t got a payrise in four years and no I don’t allow myself flexi time either.

    If the conditions are so bad in the public sector how come you all scream in horror at the idea of getting your jobs privatised, I’d have thought you’d have welcomed it. Enjoy your pay packet by the way I worked damn hard for it.

  • Ringo

    George –

    industry pays for water in the Irish Republic but householders don’t. It is metered to help improve efficiency and to detect leaks, not to bill the customer.

    I pay €50 per year for my water, up to a certain level. If I exceed it I pay more (I don’t even come close to doing so). We are currently on a group scheme that is in the process of being integrated into a bigger local authority scheme, and the charges will remain when the council take it over.

  • Dessertspoon

    Harry – are you bitter cos you didn’t get your InvestNI grant or because you didn’t get a cushy job in the Civil Service or maybe both. Good Luck to you running your own business it’s hard work I know but there is no need to take such an agressive tone. There may be wasters in civil service but there are wasters everywhere. Most work just as hard for their pay as you do.

  • Jo

    Harry

    You may be surprised that people in the public sector do work damned hard as well, if you had some experience of it, you might not have such an uninformed view.

    I also pay tax as well, surprise surprise and if you care to look at the figures quoted above it might occur to you that in fact the bulk of the public expenditure which is not public sector pay is in fact payments to private sector contractors and suppliers.

    WhiteMountain build roads, not Roads Service!

  • George

    Really?
    What council is that? News to me. Sent to you like the refuse bill?

    My understanding of government policy is to make the full cost of water and waste water services to all sectors transparent, and to secure “full cost recovery in the case of non-domestic users” (dept. of environment, heritage and local govt.).

    All non-domestic users to be metered by 2006.

  • Animus

    Yes, George, but the cost per unit of water should include the cost of delivery and infrastructure. I’m advocating the same type of system as the electricity – one doesn’t just pay for the energy, the unit price reflects the cost of bringing electricity to the home. A flat rate will be an environmental disaster – I’ve heard countless people say they will run the water constantly if they pay a flat rate.

  • Jo

    “I’ve heard countless people say they will run the water constantly if they pay a flat rate.”

    They may have seemed to be people, but in fact they must be children.

  • Ringo

    George –

    We used to get it from Galway Corpo just like a refuse bill as it was then when I lived in the city (I think that it is free in the city now though I can’t confirm).

    I’m out the country now and the current set up is being transitioned from the local committee to Galway Co co to manage it and they will link into their major schemes. As I understand it, most schemes are beginning to be passed over to local authorities to run – the regulation in the water area is making the local committees wary of being prosecuted for breaching regulations, which they personally could be liable for, so the councils are taking on the task of water provision in return for a fee per cubic metre from the local committees, who in turn bill the householders. I was told that they don’t wan’t to bring in a straight, per litre usage billing in our area because it would hit the dairy farmers big time, so instead the rest of the neighbours subsidise them!

  • smcgiff

    ‘They may have seemed to be people, but in fact they must be children.’

    Have they not learned the lesson from HOME ALONE! 🙂

  • George

    Ringo,
    doublechecked and domestic water charges were abolished in 1997 so I am confused about this 50 euros but believe I have cracked it.

    You say you are in a group scheme so it isn’t the local authority providing your water. Your group scheme may be getting water from the local authority but you’re private but subsidised by the local authority to some degree.

    Local authorities cannot charge for supplying water to domestic users.

  • George
  • George
  • Ringo

    I’m more confused now after reading that.

    The group scheme (including me as a shareholder) own our local water infrastructure, pipes meters, pumping stations etc, but the co co will be tying it into their main systems and providing us with water. The group scheme get charged for the management and supply by the co co in return for not loosing their homes in court after one of us gets poisoned and we get charged an annual fee. How this fits in with the overall national policy of doemstic users connected to the local authority system is beyond me.

    BTW, it cost me €1500 to buy into the scheme and get connected (worse than the local golf club!), and then the €50 annual charges.

  • Brian Boru

    Good thing that we in the South don’t have to pay stupid water-rates.

  • Animus

    Harry – I work for an organisation with charitable aims. I do not work in the private sector, I consider it a public sector job. Most people working as paid staff for charities would be shocked, nay, dismayed to hear someone call their jobs private sector. I have great pay, fantastic terms and conditions, lovely colleagues, wouldn’t dream of joining the private sector. Join us, Harry, join us.

  • Jo

    Animus

    I’d be more fun to have about the place! 😉

  • looking in

    This has been flagged for years and years and years and is only the beginning of a concerted British policy to cut the subvention. Watch the next 20 years.

    Shock horror. Britain to ignore local concerns and to implement cost-cutting policy regardless.

    If there is peace in Northern Ireland, then there’s no need for special treatment and all that. No need to pay for the stability.

    It has been quite clear for some time that Britain is no longer going to subsidise Northern Ireland hand over fist and I was interested to hear that next up are all the public sector jobs with Hain promising to slash bureaucracy. El Dorado.

    Spot on George – there is a big scheme, also involving EC, to wean NI from UK exchequer.

  • Jo

    “Hain promising to slash bureaucracy. El Dorado”

    ..Im sorry either you didnt read my post above about the impact of public sector jobs on the economy or you are half-Spanish? Is there a middle way, perhaps?

  • Jocky

    What the big deal?

    you get water, you pay for it. stop whinging.

    The government sold of the family silver, eh it happened everywhere else. The whole point is it raises a nice lump sum for the government and a yearly boost to the coffers, rather than being a drain.

    The majority of the UK pay council tax for council supplied services and private companies (the wonderful United Utilities in my case) for their water supply.

    If you live in Scotland you pay a charge on top of your council tax.

    Why does Northern Ireland have to be a special case on every issue?

    Hey, at least their is some cross community whinging on the issue.

  • George

    Jo,
    the superfluous public sector jobs are holding back the Northern Ireland economy, not holding it up.

    They may work hard but it doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things if the job doesn’t add value to the economy.

    Private firms being totally dependant on public sector contracts is also holding back the economy.

    The situation is stifling entrepeneurialism, costing taxpayers money and not generating wealth.

    Unless you’re a communist, you don’t want everyone to work in or be financed by the public sector, there has to be a healthy mix.

    Northern Ireland doesn’t have the right mix and is well short of wealth generators. The money is no longer forthcoming for such extravagances.

    The other options are to sell off everything of value, slash public spending and raise taxes, which is pretty much what Hain has promised to do.

    There is no support for NI and its plight or the idea that its people should “pay less” than the rest of the UK so Westminster and Hain have a free hand. They are wielding the axe while they can.

    The cynic would say the parties here are glad there is no assembly as they would be faced with the same tough choices and would prefer others took the responsibility for the tough calls.

    One thing is for sure, there is no point doing all this and taking the pain just to pay loads of people to work in the public sector and be in the same position again in a few years.

    There has to be a vision about where NI wants to go and that has to come from Northern Irish politicians because Britain is only concerned with cutting its own costs while keeping the place quiet.

    I would have serious reservations about the privatisation of water and how the parties are coping with it and how much thought NIO is putting in.

    When electricity in NI was privatised the contracts signed have resulted in each consumer having to pay on average 1,000 euros more by 2010 than they should have. Bad negotiating apparently.

  • Jo

    George
    Good points, but public spending across the UK is what keeps many private sector companies in busines – building construction etc…this is why calls to “slash public spending” always rebound on the private sector. Its a meaningless soundbite.

    Who do you think are the wealth generators across the UK today?

    On water, the creation of a GoCo is not privatisation. I dont think anyone would have a problem with privatisation if it didnt always mean job losses.

    There are plans to cut 600 jobs anyway in Water Service, even apart from any privatisation, which in the absence of a direct trading relationship with customers, is still many years away.

  • Just one Voice

    Can someone please explain to me what the General Consumer Council actually does. They seem to do little to stop the onslaught of rising charges and costs thrown out by the gas, oil and water companies other than periodically saying ‘oh isn’t that awful’. They have no legislative powers so they spend the majority of their time refering it to other Government agencies. Waste of tax payers money????????????

  • Moderate Unionist

    Looking in
    Spot on George – there is a big scheme, also involving EC, to wean NI from UK exchequer.

    and replace it with what? More social security or more private enterprise. Who would invest in Northern Ireland? Give us the tax breaks in the South. That will encourage US multinationals to locate here and we can sponge of the US like those in the south.

    Would those of you who claim to know the answer to Northern Ireland’s economic challenges please stand for election?

  • Animus

    General Consumer Council – Their CE is pretty appalling, granted. I cringe everytime she speaks. All they can really do is monitor and highlight issues and help consumers complain. A couple of years ago, Phoenix was forced to rethink its price hike, in part to to the GCC. They have also produced some good research. Many of these quangos don’t have legislative powers, so perhaps you’re asking a bigger question here? What is the point of quangos without legislative powers?

  • George

    Moderate unionist,
    calling the people of the Irish Republic spongers because they have actually taken the tough decisions themselves and created a favourable business environment for companies won’t improve Northern Ireland’s situation one iota.

    I hate to break this to you but all these companies weren’t fooled into coming to Ireland to give us money, they came here of their own free will to make it.

    Also, the lower tax rates which the Irish Republic uses aren’t available to Northern Ireland. Why should it get a competitive advantage over Scotland or Wales would be the first question asked?

    I believe it maybe could have got this deal on preferential tax rates in 1998 in the “euphoria” of peace but not a snowball’s chance in hell now. The mood is different in Westminster.

    It will continue to struggle against the Irish Republic for FDI as a result.

    The social security bill is going to be cut too by the way.

    Jo,

    Sure there is capital investment but there is also public sector waste and there are many private sector firms surviving on superfluous
    public sector contracts.

    A UK wealth generator would be the London City or tourism.

  • Jo

    geo

    I dont disagree about public sector waste, but the two terms are not synonymous!

  • George

    Jo,
    I know I have a tendency to bang the public sector waste drum, must be a hangover from my 2 years in that particular business.

    They are not synonymous, true, but I think public money makes up 65% of GDP in NI and as cash needs to be saved now then it’s the public sector where most of it has to be saved.

    You can’t talk about cutting waste in NI without talking about the public sector.

    If the place was full of private entrepeneurs or untapped resources we’d be talking about them.

  • idunnomeself

    We do pay for water, but not enough.

    What they are talking about is paying for it diferently, so that when they spend the amount they need to spend they don’t need to make cuts elsewhere to find the money.

    The anti-water charge lobby are sounding hysterical at the moment

    I am confused that Eamonn McCann thinks that us spending £431 more on clothes is bad. I certainly don’t buy the cheapest ones I can. Spending more on them is a sign that I have a higher disposable income. Certainly living here my slaray goes a lot further than it would in London or Dublin (or most of the rest of the UK or Ireland).

    Next he’ll be complaining that I we have to pay £50 extra for our three holidays a year because we have to fly via heathrow..

  • idunnomeself

    Jo:

    There is also a very significant difference between public spending and the paybill for public servants.

    The former is £7500 million a year.
    The latter is £500 million a year.

    The 500 million is Civil Servants, lots of the other spending goes on Public Servant wages- like teachers, nurses, policemen etc etc

  • Jo

    so slashing public spending means sacking nurses, teachers and cops? Good move…perhaps we could treated in hospital by adapted Dysons?