Tommie Gorman witnesses a middle class revolution in University Street. If Peter Hain’s reforms remain intact by the next rate year (beginning April 2007) some will face rises of 50%. Not surprisingly all of the local parties are against it. Alex Maskey got some applause when he said “we should not be looking to go to Downing Street, we should be looking to go up the hill there and few miles away and take the decision ourselves”. But the biggest applause was for Robert McCartney who said he would pay according to this year’s rate, + 10%, and that he would make sure he led the way if it came to prosecution.If this were a game of Chess, you’d have to concede that this is a sharp move by Hain to incentivise the disengaged middle classes to exert constituency pressure on the DUP, in particular, to get back into government. There’s another little detail hidden in there that would allow for dwellings to be re-rated on an annual basis, so that the figure you pay rises (or falls) with the value of your house. That’s not something that even pertains in GB, where local rates are generally considerably higher than Northern Ireland.
Indeed, it’s hard to see any democratically elected government contemplating such a potentially ruinous system. So, it may well prove decisive in concentrating minds.