Downturn predicted for garden centres?

Chris Thornton argues that Hain is trying to hit the elusive ‘garden centre prod’ in the wallet as a spur to re-engage them with politics. Despite the Equality Impact Assement showing the proposed rates changes would have an adverse impact upon Protestants, others and some ethnic minorities the Government has pressed on with no objections from the Equality Commission. It has left the issue of a cap on rates bills to a restored Assembly but Thornton does not think it will work nor wise party politics.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Not exactly unusual for the Equality Commission to overlook the interests of the majority population here. Equality seems to mean that nationalists will receive something at the expense of unionists. Nationalists then demand something more but will never accept the idea of compromise.

    And yet they talk of Unionism having a “No Surrender” mentality. It’s time that nationalists found a De Klerk and tried to make peace with us.

  • To be fair nationalists didn’t demand the rates, it’s just a case of Hain walking roughshod over good practice based on his own whims. The guy’s gone power-mad.

  • Fraggle

    OMG! A Labour government raises taxes for rich people!!!!!!!!!

    Anyway, this is what you get when you’re ruled from abroad by people who don’t give a toss what you think.

    From your link:

    “For one thing, the party’s dominance in unionism is so secure that they can bear a degree of unhappiness in a section of the electorate. Jumping ship to the UUP won’t get them a cap.

    And the party would probably be unwise to commit to a cap, let alone embark on convincing their partners in a potential Executive.

    According to one Government projection, a cap for the top five per cent of homeowners would see bills for the other 95 per cent rise by £30 a year.”

    The Tele don’t seem to think the DUP would actually do anything about it. What do the DUP say?

  • kensei

    “Not exactly unusual for the Equality Commission to overlook the interests of the majority population here. Equality seems to mean that nationalists will receive something at the expense of unionists. Nationalists then demand something more but will never accept the idea of compromise.

    And yet they talk of Unionism having a “No Surrender” mentality. It’s time that nationalists found a De Klerk and tried to make peace with us. ”

    You know, I was actualy out on the street demanding higher rates bills. I stood all day outside the RCA with placards and shouted “I have too much money! Raise my bills!”. I’m just delighted that my one man campaign seems to have worked spectacularly.

    We don’t have a De Klerk, btw, but we do seem to have a Mandela. You refuse to talk to him, on accounts of his violent past.

  • Dec

    Intelligence Insider

    Always good to see Unionists moaning about the actions of a British Minister without any hint of irony. Though the general thrust of your post would have been aided by a few more inclusions of the word ‘themmuns’.Keep it up!

  • Scotsman

    This plan also allows a useful experiment for reform of the council tax in GB. Certainly in Scotland, there are plans to add to the number of bands at the high end.

    It seems like a fairly good way of encouraging elderly people with a lot of unearned wealth (from the housing boom) but modest incomes to sell their big houses to families or groups of renters who can afford them. Should cut down on their heating bills as well 🙂

    A purer system would tax the value of the land, rather than penalising people for developing the land cf Henry George.

  • Scotsman

    I should add, the experiment is useful to Labour as it won’t lose them any votes!

  • Young Fogey

    but we do seem to have a Mandela

    Uh? Who?

  • lib2016

    The question is surely whether themmuns can do better than the series of Terreblanches they have produced so far?

    Sometime somehow the unionist people have to produce leadership capable of helping them to transform themselves into useful members of society. Can’t see the DUP in that role.

  • Crataegus

    This is not terribly clever and will hit all sorts of people unfairly. Rates have never been a fair tax and to use it as a political tool is folly.

    The ‘Garden Centre set’ are of all religious backgrounds and there are not enough of them to make any real political difference. They like many others have no real political outlet here in NI and that is why they have disengaged. Taxing them is not going to make them suddenly believe otherwise. These are the people who want modern outward looking politics and view the local politicians for what they are, and therefore simply do not support them. I would have though better to tax the people who cause the problem and their supporters rather than bystanders. Let them pay for some of the past damage they have done.

    If the Garden set (assuming such a homogeneous group actually exists) go out and in mass vote UUP well the UUP retain North Down and in Lisburn who is going to replace wee Jeffrey? So what change? In any case are they likely to support the UUP with its new links when in the past they have shown little real interest.

    So is the idea that they join a political parties and become activists. Anyone with any IQ knows that in the current framework that such effort, in the hope of making real change, is at best euphoric optimism. So how then do they proceed? Move is one option, another is use their influence and the third is to check the legality and challenge.

    For a vulture like myself I see this having a downward effect on house prices in such areas and an increase in the likelihood of purchase for redevelopment. So the current path will probably have little political impact, but will cause significant destruction to very pleasant residential areas. It may also mean that well educated and highly trained people decide to move out of NI and where is the gain in that?

    On a wider front this administration is preparing the groundwork to sell off assets here in preparation for departure and that is also in no ones’ interest.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Not exactly unusual for the Equality Commission to overlook the interests of the majority population here. Equality seems to mean that nationalists will receive something at the expense of unionists. Nationalists then demand something more but will never accept the idea of compromise.’

    BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHaaaaaaHAAAAAAAAAAA *repeat ad nauseum*

    How far up your own arse must your head be to see this as an anti-PROTESTANT agenda.

    No, it’s not a tax on the rich, but a tax on Protestants that happen to be rich! Priceless!

    Thanks for the humour lads – keep it up! But be careful, some people might think you’re ACTUALLY being serious!!!

  • Crataegus

    Scotsman

    It seems like a fairly good way of encouraging elderly people with a lot of unearned wealth (from the housing boom) but modest incomes to sell their big houses to families or groups of renters who can afford them. Should cut down on their heating bills as well 🙂

    For many elderly people their house is more than just a home. It is a place they bought when they were young and a place where their children played and grew up. It is full of resonances and memories. They know where everything is for they have lived there for decades. When you move many elderly people out of their homes they go down hill very quickly. We can wait a few years instead of being in an unseemly hurry to grab their property.

    Not for one moment would I support anything that would aim to displace anyone in their twilight from their abode quite the opposite I think it is in the interest of society to try and ensure that they remain there and support them, it is a sign of our humanity. Let it be their decision and let’s not load the dice. In any case if someone leaves a house at 65 they are then competing with the young for smaller houses.

    The problem is we are not building enough houses.

  • smcgiff

    Crataegus, you hit the real problem on the head!

  • Jo

    This to put it quite simply, equaklity of treatment with other parts of the UK. Its not all a garden of roses being part of that country, you know.

    Scottish English and Welsh rates/water bills are on average £400 500 higher than the NI average.

    Get over it.

    This is the UK and the price of what Unionists want – equalityof cititzenship and equal liability to pay up. If you dont like it, return to devolution.

  • Crataegus

    Jo

    “Many of them are winding up with rates higher than those for zillionaires in London”.

    What equality? And this is before the water charges!

  • kensei

    “Uh? Who?”

    Now, bearing in mind we are running with someone else’s metaphor here, let me see… Leader who moved from violent methods to peaceful ones? Work it out.

  • T.Ruth

    Cratageus
    Thank you for the generosity of spirit implicit in your very humane post.As Kris Kristoferson would say”You’ve been reading my mail.” I hope some of those who favour swingeing tax demands on people who are elderly realise that if we are lucky old age comes to us all.I think my generation has made sufficient contribution to society and to the taxation system over many decades and deserves some reasonable consideration now.
    T.Ruth

  • Jo

    Crat

    As no-one at present pays for water here, the absence of a water-sewerage bill accounts for most of the gap between the NI average and E/W/S average domestic bill.

    If we just introduced water charges without adjusting our rates bills, it still wouldnt close the gap. I believe the Treasury attitude is based (losely) on extracting the money that the Army presence here cost them since 1969…(coughs drily)

    The zillionaires will face an uncapped rates bill based on capital value – I pity the purchaser of a £1.6 m property outside Rostrevor…

  • Jo

    ..actually, no I don’t. 🙂

  • Crataegus

    T Ruth

    Thanks, in my opinion societies are measured by how they educate their young and how they treat the poor, the elderly and those who are ill. What is wealth if you rely on chance of birth and health for your well being?

  • Scotsman

    I understand the point about the wee old lady not wanting to move out of her family home but if she’s sitting on a huge nest-egg why should the state charge people with fewer assets instead?

    It might be politically prudent to offer a discount to single-dwellers, as for GB council tax.

    In Denmark there is an annual property tax, but OAP’s can defer part of it until after their death. They stay in their homes and the state takes what they owe afterwards.

    The rich hate property tax because they can’t avoid it, unlike income tax etc.

  • kensei

    “Thanks, in my opinion societies are measured by how they educate their young and how they treat the poor, the elderly and those who are ill. What is wealth if you rely on chance of birth and health for your well being?”

    I agree to an extent with what you are saying, but at some point building more houses becomes not the answer.

    It is harsh, but at some point we have to make decisions that transfer housing from the old to the young. You have to ask the question – is someone sitting on a million pound house really poor? There are others who have nothing.

    I think that the strongest argument against isn’t the sentimental one, but rather the support networks that build up around people living in those communities that aren’t easily replaced.

  • Jo

    Its only with the greatest of reluctance, I believe, that any old person leaves their family home, even if they are they are alone and it is massively beyond their requirements and their means to maintain. Coercion is cruelty in such circumstances. Managing their situation while preserving their dignity is needed.

  • Crataegus

    Jo

    The best way to tax is based on income and therefore ability to pay. Large houses don’t necessarily mean large incomes. You can have several incomes (perhaps more) in the one household and next door with a young family perhaps only one, should both pay the same? Anyway we have been through this before in other threads suffice to say rates are an unfair tax.

    I have an abode here and in Camden and my observations are that NI is not necessarily a very cheap place to live. The cost of housing in NI is higher than many other regions in Britain and energy costs very high. From my experience in London many items of food also appear to be slightly higher in NI but that is just personal perception. Travel is also more expensive. On the other side of the coin wages are generally lower and one must therefore assume disposable income less. S

    The Administration here is simply reducing the burden of NI by increasing local tax without any real consideration to context or equality. The prime objective is raise money so the proposal comes first and the justification second. Best to view this administration as Carpet Beggars and irrespective of political affiliation it is not in the interests of anyone in NI if the government sells of the Water Service or that overall disposable income is reduced. Also proposals to sell government buildings and leases them back are not to be welcomed. If there was a united Ireland you are gaining 6 counties that have been plundered.

  • Jo

    Crat

    Larger more valuable properties are seen by govt. here as a proxy of ability to pay. It stems from a Treasury reluctance, bordering on horror, to consider regional tax.

    As NI is the only part of the UK with a land border to another EU country (which doesn’t levy rates) one might see a politial consequence in time, as well.

    I would agree with your observation earlier though that we need more houses. Yes we do – for the Russians & Poles. 🙂

  • mnob

    I cant see this as a serious attempt to lever the garden centre set. If it is its pretty cack handed.

    Firstly if you wanted to create dissent with the current arrangements you would hit everyone not just 55%.

    As one of the 55% who has ended up paying more I’m not that upset. I realise that we pay less than in GB so I’m happy to pay a little more – especially as I still believe it will be accompanied by a return to local administration.

    Now the idea of a cap appals me. I would actually campaign against such an idea (and I say again this is as someone who will pay more).

    Why ? Because I’m one of the *real* silent majortiy – those middle income idiots who cant dodge or reduce their taxes through expenseve accountancy practices – cant have an offshore account or live outside the EU for 200 days a year – have no business to offset or trusts or anything like that. I’m also too rich to ever get any help from the government.

    I also pay my taxes on time – I have no option because its through PAYE.

    The article says placing a cap would result in an increase of £30 on everyone elses bill – aye right – if it was spread evenly which it wont – *I* will have to pay more than that.

    Placing a cap would placate a very small number of the population – and anger a much larger number who would have to subsidise those fortunate enough to own property 10x the value of mine.

    Fair play to Hain for actually bringing in a tax that cant be dodged.

  • Crataegus

    Scotsman

    I understand the point about the wee old lady not wanting to move out of her family home but if she’s sitting on a huge nest-egg why should the state charge people with fewer assets instead?

    You can get your hands on her money when she dies, death duties. Why the indecent haste?

    The rich hate property tax because they can’t avoid it, unlike income tax etc.

    No you can also avoid property tax you just need to plan ahead. It all depends how ownership is held and transferred. Oh you probably mean rates; again I can think of holding a property in a business charging myself rent and putting rates through as an expense. All it needs is attention to the detail and where the company is registered.

    Basically from my experience of tax when I was younger and poor I had to work dam hard and was taxed mercilessly. However with age, increased wealth and leisure I have more time and money to ensure I minimise my tax burden. Tax falls heaviest on those who work hard, are of normal income, and it falls very heavily on small business owners, most of them pay more tax than they should because they don’t have time to worry about detail.

    Kensei

    It is harsh, but at some point we have to make decisions that transfer housing from the old to the young. You have to ask the question – is someone sitting on a million pound house really poor? There are others who have nothing.

    The elderly have to live somewhere, so you still have to build accommodation and I am all for building lots of purpose built attractive sheltered accommodation so that those who wish can avail, but it should not be through coercion and it is not sheap to do properly.

    What is suggested makes as much sense as saying that no single person should live in a house and that they should be encouraged through the tax system to share? Why are we picking on the elderly?

    Also if the elderly were corralled as suggested it is a trick you only play once.

    No we have a rising population and a shortage of houses. There really is only one way out of it we need to build.

  • Exiled in Scotland

    I read in the Belfast Telegraph about a couple that moved into their dream home – costing about 10 times what the average house in NI costs and they felt that the rates that they might have to pay were very high.

    Personally, i think that if they can afford an expensive house then they should be able to afford expensive rates – and if they have mortgaged themselves to the hilt – then it is their own fault.

    I can’t give you numbers on this – but i imagine that a lot of people who are looking at high rates bills are people who benefit from highly paid jobs that might not exist in NI if it wasn’t for the inflated Civil Service and Public Sector.

    While none of us like paying taxes – it is perhaps the price to pay for living in a society -and those that have benefitted most should pay accordingly.

    Downsizing would allow a bit more volatiility in the housing ladder too – allowing the upwardly mobile to move up into the expensive (empty) houses that the old people are vacating.

  • Jo

    “highly paid jobs that might not exist in NI if it wasn’t for the inflated Civil Service and Public Sector.”

    The majority of staff in the NICS are AOs, paid between £12k and £16k.

    The average UK wage is £25k.

    Hardly either highly paid or inflated.

  • Crataegus

    Jo

    It stems from a Treasury reluctance, bordering on horror, to consider regional tax.

    I agree

    Personally I would prefer Regional tax and to hell with the rates irrespective of the political nuances. Rates create all sorts of distortions and as they are not based on ability to pay are a heavy burden on businesses that are struggling. It is a tax that hits too many people who are weak. Want to tax the rich, tax income, and tighten up on the loopholes.

  • Crataegus

    Kensei

    One of the areas that may be worth consideration is taxing dwellings that are lying empty so that they are sold off and made use of.

    A similar measure now applies to commercial but unfortunately the effect it is having there is that owners are viewing such property as a liability and are demolishing and building apartments. So instead of reducing rents on commercial units it is reducing availability. On housing I can’s see a similar down side and it would help stop unscrupulous developers leaving houses to decay in an attempt to encourage adjoining owners to sell.

  • Reader

    kensei: Now, bearing in mind we are running with someone else’s metaphor here, let me see… Leader who moved from violent methods to peaceful ones? Work it out.
    Well, when he has racked up 26 years in prison – we’ll see…

  • cladycowboy

    Crataegus

    I’m all for you when it comes to taxing income rether than assets but there has to be a huge eradication of the many loopholes that allow the extremely wealthy to dodge their taxes, who is going to make that happen?

    What frightens me is the relaxed way in which a supposedly social minded government has allowed average hose prices to rise to 7 times the average wage. Seriously am i missing something here or should i join in with the hoorahs everytime house prices are lifted out of my limit, maybe i should be enjoying being shafted up the proverbial?

    There is ‘affordable’ one bed flats being aimed at nurses in London for 400k. What happened to us the voters or the English language that has allowed a ‘Labour’ Government to call themselves that, and a 400k flat affordable.

    Where is the Revolution? We all too fat or waiting for our parents inheritance?

  • cladycowboy

    Jeez, talk about inflation, its a wonder Thames water had to issue a ban at all when the average hose is 168k! (Should read house)

  • Setanta

    I think the British have finally had enough of subsidising the North and the Labour party in particular, has realised how much it could do with £6 billion or so in thr run up to the next election.

  • Crataegus

    Claudycowboy

    I agree with you regarding the cost of housing. It should never have been allowed to reach current levels. Utter disgrace. Several reasons; we have not been building enough houses and lack of coherent regional policy. You need to plan ahead and successive governments just haven’t and the decisions they take on such matters have little context.

    Last year I was reading a suggestion for a linear city between Liverpool and Hull and it had good arguments about transport, economic hubs etc and it included relocating parliament. It was to act as a counter balance to London. It was an interesting idea and had good arguments. Certainly it would help take the pressure of the South East.

    Instead of tinkering around sometimes it takes some radical decisions. How does Belfast to Dungannon sound?

    My interests are in property and I know we could massively increase the population of inner Belfast, but that this accommodation would be more suitable for the young and those without families, but to do it properly would need a body to act as lead developer and set design guidelines. I have reason to stop over in Pernety from time to time and if 7 – 8 storey buildings can work in Paris why not in inner Belfast? By the way I believe it is now cheaper to buy an apartment in many parts of Paris than say the bottom of the Castlereagh Road!

    You will never tie down the exceedingly rich, it is far too easy to avoid tax if you are wealthy and mobile. If laws are introduced here they move to the Virgin Islands, Guernsey or elsewhere and they can get the best advice money can buy. By all means we can try but I doubt if it will net much. There is no point basing our tax system on them, let us concentrate on the rest of us and try to set up a system that is fair and has some underlying social principles.

    Setanta

    How much is Iraq and Afghanistan costing? And then there are those computer systems for various government bodies that are over budget, identity cards and well one could go on, and guess who helps pay for them, people like me.

  • Garibaldy

    Crat,

    I hear Paris property prices are going up, so snap a flat up quickly. As for building more houses. Not enough space – environmental impact etc. What we do need are more flats. It seems to me there is a shift to flats – young people are now buying flats rather than houses in the main it seems to me. Added to flats, better transport links. Better use of space, and better for the environment.

  • Garibaldy

    By the way, the idea of an equality assessment for taxation based on religion is absolutely ludricous. Class not creed is clearly what is important.

  • Crataegus

    Garibaldy

    As for building more houses. Not enough space – environmental impact etc.

    I meant not enough dwellings generally.

    I agree about the need to increase the percentage of apartments but they are not ideal for everyone.

    For high density Cities to work you need good public services, lots of quality well maintained communal open space, good public transport, local shops and services. In Paris bins seems to be collected everyday! I still haven’t worked it out. Suppose it reduces the need for storage and the pong. Another point is the levels of vandalism in Paris there are for example outdoor table tennis tables etc which children use and I have never known them to be vandalised.

    If anyone is in Montparnasse station and has the time, have a look at what is built over it and along the lines to realise how much space we waste here. The office buildings are not the prettiest but they have made a square with a very interesting large garden in the middle which has all sorts of instruments for measuring the climate and playgrounds ponds etc.

    I am less than impressed by some of the environmentalists arguments about land use. There is land, the problem is that until recently we have been building on good agricultural land in places like Comber and North Down and not on poor land like Mallusk. There is a fair amount of land in Ireland but in the South East of England there is a different order of problem altogether. Britain needs to move development pressures out to the regions.

    In NI we simply can’t house the rising population within the confines of the existing urban area and the only mechanism for increasing density is market forces which is a little random for my liking.

  • Intelligence Insider

    I think you will find that Mandela was a member of the majority community in Africa, we are still waiting on republicans to find a De Klerk and I fear it may be a long wait!