Alliance: Northern Ireland must become economically self suffient

Here’s a proposition that will go down like a lead balloon at Connelly House, and Dundela Avenue. The Alliance party had their AGM today, and resolved that…

…Northern Ireland must set itself the objective of becoming economically self-sufficient, and no longer relying on subvention from London. The call was passed unanimously at a meeting of Party Council in Castlereagh.

Proposing the motion, new Party President Colm Cavanagh stated: “We have seen yet again this week parties going to London and demanding more money. They will then come back and say ‘Oh look, we secured more funding’. Yet there is no thought going into how we make our economy truly competitive.”

Seconding the motion, North Down Councillor Ian James Parsley stated: “We have to recognise how important this is not just financially, but also politically and socially. We cannot allow our government to continue being hindered by the fact it is reliant on London for the money it wants to spend. If we create the wealth right here, we will be able to go to London and look the UK Government straight in the eye. This ability has led to self-confidence in the Republic, and there is no reason we cannot aim for the same.”

Former Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin added: “We can have no more begging bowl politics. We need a widespread review of economic policy, planning, infrastructure and everything else if we are to stand up on our own two feet. We must make this a priority in the new Assembly.”

The motion means the seven Alliance MLAs will pursue the objective of a self-sufficient economy as a priority, as it becomes the leading opposition party to a four-party Executive, now likely in May.

The meeting also saw David Ford MLA and Naomi Long MLA re-elected as Leader and Deputy Leader, and Coleraine representative Yvonne Boyle agreeing to continue as Party Chair until Party Conference, on 3 November. Party activists applauded the work of candidates, election agents and party workers in securing recent electoral gains, and called for urgent further action to grow the party.

  • How can a party that presents itself as the ‘opposition’ in a future Assembly embrace a ridiculous and hardline fiscal objective that goes even further than anything dreamt up by Gordon Brown and the Treasury.

    Its only a matter of time now, before Prime Minister Brown is quoting the Alliance line at hapless Ministers from the new Executive.

    I can see it now. Gordon waving the finger over the desk at Martin and Ian: “Look lads, if Ford can swallow more Treasury discipline, why can’t ye…??”

    Opposition ???? MMMMmmmmmm

    I think others will have to deliver that mandate.

  • SuperSoupy

    Is the APNI intending to reinvent itself as an Norn Iron Nationalist party?

    Though who seriously can be against more jobs and industry?

    Only APNI are against seeking assistance while it happens, or support if it doesn’t.

    Will they also reject EU assistance to our farmers, fishermen etc. as part of this stand on your own two feet agenda?

    Or is it just soundbite politics?*

    *I’m not asking. It is.

  • Crataegus

    Northern Ireland must become economically self sufficient

    I would be interested to know how, what are the proposals? We don’t have control over the purse strings. We cannot introduce more competative tax structures, we cannot join the Euro and benifit from lower interest rates, we cannot reduce duty on petrol so our haulage industry continues at a disadvantage, it is even cheaper to fly out of Dublin than it is Belfast. I could go on.

    So pray do tell me how we do it?

  • slug

    I interpret this to mean that they want to grow the economy – so that NI is richer and therefore pays more taxes – rather than to cut back on public services. All parties want to do this, I would guess.

    I would argue that public spending isn’t necessarily bad but it depends on whether it is government investment (e.g. in road, rail, education, health facilities) or government consumption (civil service salaries, etc). The former can help private sector while the latter just takes potential employees away from it.

  • slug

    Alliance have handled quite well the replacement of their big names, with Alderdice now securely replaced by Long, and Bell and Close replaced. Whether Lunn and Farry bed in will be important. IJP comes across well (form my previous discussions with him here) and I would hope that he can be promoted up.

  • Greenflag

    At last a political party that sounds as if it has some semblance of self respect and policy ambition . Easier to say than do but at least it’s a step in the right direction .

    Where there’s a will there will eventually be a way . Where there’s no will there’s always a won’t !

  • Truth& Justice

    If they Alliance Party are to be taken seriously then they have to ditch nose picker wilson, he is far to green for them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Soupy:

    Though who seriously can be against more jobs and industry?

    Neither SF nor the DUP have attempted to formulate a policy for creating jobs and securing industrial development. They have merely asked for more money – they have not stipulated what it is to be spent on. We should be going to the British government with a business plan, not a plea for a handout.

    Kinda silly that the republicans seem to be making an argument for our reliance on the UK exchequer. Equally, it’s silly that the DUP seem to be suggesting that the union gives us some sort of right to a pile of cash, and if we don’t get it we’ll shoot ourselves in the foot.

  • Roisin

    Stalin,

    APNI haven’t outlined a plan either, merely asked for less money?

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Can NI achieve such a thing without fiscal autonomy from GB? I’d be surprised if it could to be honest and the chances of gaining fiscal autonomy within the Union are nil.

    I’m afraid that, if NI stays in the Union it’ll be more of the same. NI redefines the term ‘The Welfare State’. It exists on hand-outs. Great for the collective self-esteem. ‘Please sir, can I have some more?’ Pathetic.

  • BeardyBoy

    I wonder what colour the sky is on planet alliance

  • Aisling

    The Alliance Party, AFTER THE ELECTIONS, now reckons that the North should “set itself the objective of becoming economically self-sufficient, and no longer relying on subvention from London”.

    Does this mean that Alliance party members will immediately and collectively resign from all those QUANGO’s where they currently sit in numbers which are disproportionate to their electoral strength, or is several grand a year per job for one or two days a minths too big of a bribe???

    Can Alliance survive without this NIO subvention ???

  • Wilde Rover

    At least some of the parties are looking beyond the begging bowl.

    “Is the APNI intending to reinvent itself as an Norn Iron Nationalist party?”

    “Will they also reject EU assistance to our farmers, fishermen etc. as part of this stand on your own two feet agenda?”

    It might be better to look at it in the context of the broader picture. Is this policy not similar to the Euro-statist positions being considered in Iberia?

    If power were to transfer incrementally from London to Brussels then NI would become another slice in the EU pie.

    NI in the Eurozone would be a big step.

  • Shore Road Resident

    As there can’t be a united Ireland without a self-sufficient Northern Ireland first, the sneering of republicans here is quite surprising.
    Perhaps republicans are having trouble reconciling the economic preconditions for a united Ireland with Sinn Fein’s stated economic policies, or lack thereof.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    A main priority should be to improve literacy and to emphasise the importance of correct spelling of difficult concepts such as ‘sufficiency’!

  • Diversifying slightly, but still on the subject of economic success, many congratulations to the much lambasted Maginnes Bar who have managed to survive the awful consequences of the McCartney murder and who are now trading in full flight attracting hundreds of local office workers (from both communities) with their excellent lunctime menus and regular nighttime entertainment. Despite the “advice” of many critics (most of whom had never ever frequented it’s doors), this historic bar refused to die and has retained all of its historic characteristics. Long may it continue and prosper…

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Shore Road Resident:

    [i]As there can’t be a united Ireland without a self-sufficient Northern Ireland first….[/i]

    How have you arrived at this conclusion? To be honest I don’t think you’re right, but I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Roisin:

    APNI haven’t outlined a plan either, merely asked for less money?

    I see no part of the above article that says “give us less money”. The point is that the large parties are basing the future of NI on a sponging operation. We need to get together and start thinking about how to do it ourselves.

    Damien:

    Can NI achieve such a thing without fiscal autonomy from GB? I’d be surprised if it could to be honest and the chances of gaining fiscal autonomy within the Union are nil.

    In the early 1990s I remember people saying to me that the Irish economy was fundamentally agrarian and that it would always rely on handouts from the EU. How wrong they were. I don’t believe there is anything specific about the Irish celtic tiger success story that we cannot replicate up here. In fact I think there is a chance that we could outrun them, given a head of steam and a chance. The trouble for the RoI is that they are facing serious issues with competitiveness. Goods and services are getting expensive, and obviously property is utterly insane.

    I’m afraid that, if NI stays in the Union it’ll be more of the same. NI redefines the term ‘The Welfare State’. It exists on hand-outs. Great for the collective self-esteem. ‘Please sir, can I have some more?’ Pathetic.

    Indeed it is pathetic, and that crap needs to stop. We need to wean ourselves off the handout tit.

    I’d start by closing down InvestNI and creating a new Industrial Regeneration Board (IRB, I love it) as part of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. I think that industry grant and training activities need to be brought under the direct supervision of the assembly/executive rather than farmed out to civil servants. InvestNI’s strategy is completely wrong.

    Aisling:

    Does this mean that Alliance party members will immediately and collectively resign from all those QUANGO’s where they currently sit in numbers which are disproportionate to their electoral strength, or is several grand a year per job for one or two days a minths too big of a bribe???

    I dare you to list those quangos ?

    I don’t really think you want to have a fight over which politicans are the biggest sink of taxpayer cash. I’d just redirect you to the NI Assembly remuneration & expenses page. And that doesn’t even begin to look into the community associations where SF members are paid £20K a year to drink tea and take classes in street art and graffiti.

    Wilde:

    “Is the APNI intending to reinvent itself as an Norn Iron Nationalist party?”

    To some extent, we all are. I don’t believe in patriotism or nationalism, or any of that nonsense, but I do have a feel for what we are capable of up here. I remember a few years ago that both Gerry Adams and David Trimble attended an Ulster match at Lansdowne Road. It’s a small example, but I think it showed that trumpeting our regional capability is not confined to any one party or political creed (or indeed to rugby).

    macswiney:

    Diversifying slightly, but still on the subject of economic success, many congratulations to the much lambasted Maginnes Bar who have managed to survive the awful consequences of the McCartney murder and who are now trading in full flight attracting hundreds of local office workers (from both communities) with their excellent lunctime menus and regular nighttime entertainment.

    Are you the guy who bought it ? I’ve been past it a few times and it hasn’t seemed busy to me. The only way you’ll get people back in there is to put bouncers on the door and stop the hoods from the Markets getting in. I didn’t think they’d done that. I was also a bit put off by the advertisement of blatant touristy fiddledy-dee stuff on the signs outside.

    Damien:

    How have you arrived at this conclusion? To be honest I don’t think you’re right, but I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning.

    I don’t think self-sufficiency is a precondition for reunification, but surely people have to have some self respect. “Yes, we want you to be reunited with us and then start paying through the nose for our hospitals, schools and welfare state, because we can’t be bothered getting off our backsides and doing it ourselves” ? Doesn’t sound compelling to me.

  • IJP

    Thanks Mick for raising this important thread.

    It shows, in fact, how the Alliance Party has changed since the “near-death experience” of ’03. The idea of such a motion passing unanimously 4-5 years ago in our party would have been, well, unlikely to say the least.

    Peter

    If the Green Party is content for NI to become permanently dependent on hand outs from other places and therefore permanently to lack any self-respect, I think we should be told…

    SuperSoupy

    Politics in practice is much more about priorities than about actual positions.

    I myself said to Council in my speech that everyone would agree NI should develop more industry/services/enterpreneurial culture. But everyone agreed that 30 years ago, and 60 years ago, yet precisely the opposite has happened.

    The position adopted yesterday was that this should be top priority. For without at least this objective, NI will be forever reliant on hand outs. Increased spending on health, education, infrastructure etc will forever be dependent on the whims of London (or Dublin or Brussels). That’s not good.

    Slug

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I am, however, quite content as a humble local councillor!

    T&J

    Brian Wilson cannot be ditched by Alliance because he’s not a member of the party.

    The Assembly Group has simply agreed to share out committee places with him and designate the same way, ensuring all bar one of the committees have one MLA of that designation.

    Aisling

    Really tired stuff. Try reading what we said BEFORE THE ELECTIONS, and BEFORE THE BUDGET… ideas such as abandoning segregated public spending, cutting back on education/health administration, “smarter spending” etc etc.

    Can Alliance survive without this NIO subvention

    Which NIO subvention is this, precisely?

    If you mean the hundreds of thousands of pounds given to “ministerial special advisers” even though there are no ministers, you’ll find we don’t receive that – although the Ulster Unionists and SDLP do.

    Have you referred your question to them? What was the response?

    Wilde Rover and shore road resident

    100% correct.

    Anyone who denies NI is distinct from GB and from RoI is denying reality. Iberia is quite a good model, at least in terms of our thinking.

    One of the reasons we must become self-sufficient is to make our own decisions on health, education etc (above).

    But another is indeed that it is the only context in which the “constitutional question” can be seriously and confidently addressed…

    Damien Okado Gough

    … because cash-rich and all as it is, RoI does not have €10 billion spare each and every year, and even if it did I suspect those in the 26 counties would have an idea of a few better things to be done with it!

  • IJP

    Comrade

    InvestNI’s strategy is completely wrong.

    Strategy…?

    Sorry, another cynical moment, I really should get some self-respect…!

  • Inside Out

    Why doesn’t Alliance become self-sufficient?

    For example, I have heard they are always asking for money from their members to cover brief election shortfalls and running costs.

    You would think, would you not, that their MLA’s would re-direct money from their salaries to cover such short-term Party debts.

    But No, of course they wouldn’t do that because they don’t practice what they preach and they don’t want their own money messed with.

    Nice abstract idea but Alliance men and women don’t do what they want others to do when it comes to money that would go or is about to go into their own accounts.

    It remains to be seen whether such bold talk is matched with action in respect of fiscal arrangements within the Alliance Party itself.

  • Mark Millar

    I suspect all Alliance MLAs should draw the European average salary and re-invest the rest into the party. A bit like the Sinn Fein method.

    Maybe that might make the Alliance Party more credible when it speaks like this. Maybe even attract more members that way also?

  • Crataegus

    Damien Okado Gough

    Can NI achieve such a thing without fiscal autonomy from GB?

    This has also been ratting around in my head for some time. I cannot see how we can do what is necessary unless we do have fiscal autonomy. So how do you achieve that?

    I am not adverse to taking any money on offer but long term that position is neither sustainable nor desirable.

  • kensei

    “I am not adverse to taking any money on offer but long term that position is neither sustainable nor desirable.”

    We need to adopt a variation on the Golden Rule – any subvention from wherever should not be used to fund current expenses. The money should go straight into infrastructure and investment and the budget should balance over the course of a cycle.

  • David

    I’ve always been disappointed with Alliance as they spent most of the period from their foundation until the GFA merely following the fashionable political orthodoxy without doing any thinking of their own.

    The ridiculous d’Hondt/communal voting designation farce that was agreed in the GFA is partly as a result of the lack of serious thought from Alliance (and to a greater extent from the SDLP) as to how the “executive power sharing” slogan could ever be made into a practical political reality. Since 1998 they have been marginalised by the Frankensteins monster of a constitution that their smug negligence helped to create.

    Despite this I am quite impressed by this Alliance motion. At last they have decided to come up with some new ideas, rather than join the queue at the NIO with their begging bowl in hand.

    With the increase in the Alliance vote in the last election and this new policy, maybe there is some hope for the party yet.

  • I would be interested to know how, what are the proposals? We don’t have control over the purse strings. We cannot introduce more competative tax structures, we cannot join the Euro and benifit from lower interest rates, we cannot reduce duty on petrol so our haulage industry continues at a disadvantage

    Despite what Hain and the Treasury say, EU rules would allow Northern Ireland to introduce differential taxation, under certain conditions.

    the regional tax regime must be approved by a public body with a considerable degree of autonomy and without the interference of the central government in the approval process and that its financial impact must be borne by the autonomous government, without compensation from the state authorities. (International Tax Review)

    I somehow doubt whether the parties have offered to meet that last condition in their talks with Brown. However, it has been suggested that Northern Ireland could get a derogation from it.

    There is little doubt that should UK Government seek to implement a reduced rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland that it would subsequently have to justify this to the European Commission under the provisions of Article 87 (3) of the Treaty on European Union – i.e. EU State Aid legislation. Given the extremely difficult economic and social circumstances in that province, it is conceivable that such justification may be accepted by the Commission and the tax measure accepted. If a similar concession was sought for Scotland, and in the context of Scotland’s relatively better economic situation, it is likely that justification on economic development grounds would be considerably more difficult. (Scottish Council for Development and Industry: Scotland’s Economy – The Fiscal Debate)

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Comrade Stalin:

    [i]In the early 1990s I remember people saying to me that the Irish economy was fundamentally agrarian and that it would always rely on handouts from the EU. How wrong they were. I don’t believe there is anything specific about the Irish celtic tiger success story that we cannot replicate up here.[/i]

    What, specifically, can’t be replicated in NI is the low level of corporation tax and a presence in the Euro zone. These things were doable in the Republic because they had the power to decide and implement their fiscal policies, whereas the folks in Stormont haven’t a hope of getting that.

    As an aside, if they did get it, it would strengthen the Scots case for getting it as well and that would certainly weaken the Union if they did get it. Therefore, no-one’s getting it.

    Even the main parties are arguing that a reduction in the level of corporation tax is necessary to generate the same sort of inward investment which has fed the Celtic Tiger.

    As for creating the desire for Irish unity in the Republic, if the border was to come down, the UK, EU and Irish Republic would be more than capable of funding the north until the Republic’s economic policies kicked in.

  • IJP

    I would be interested to know how…

    Here are some suggestions…

    First, stop making excuses! As noted, a devolved Assembly could have control of more purse strings.

    Second, stop wasting the money we do have. Reinvest the money wasted in segregated public services/facilities in a targeted approach to promoting investment and entrepreneurship (as well as giving the money back to hard-working families hit unfairly by rates hikes and water changes). Remember also that a permanently divided society hinders investment – so end the divisions.

    Third, change InvestNI’s “strategy”, instead focusing on specific industries (energy, healthcare/biotech, media/ICT, tourism) and the ways in which NI really can become a world leader (technology, good regulation, strong community back-up, social economy). Don’t promote industries which either require little government intervention (agri-food) or where NI has no obvious even potential competitive advantage (finance, heavy manufacturing). Don’t promote NI on the basis of themes which are not permanent (low-wage economy, low house prices) or absent (low taxes, cosmopolitan lifestyle, good weather).

    Most of all, look at the broader picture. If you can’t change it (corporation tax) or you won’t change it (large public sector), forget it!

    Remember what I said above, politics is not about positions, it is about priorities.

    By the way, you may attack some aspects of the above – perfect, you will have entered the debate. That was the point of the motion!

    The only thing I would absolutely insist upon is a timescale for determining what we’re going to do, and then a timescale for doing it!

  • Crataegus

    IJP

    Remember also that a permanently divided society hinders investment – so end the divisions.

    Yes stop wasting money, totally agree but how do we end divisions? It has become an industry in itself. You would need dictatorship or a brilliant persuader.

    Agree with changing to a focused strategy, perhaps another University out west?

    Why would I run a haulage company from Ballyclare when it is cheaper to do so from Dundalk? Why would I organise a concert in Belfast and not Dublin? Why would I invest here and not Poland?

    Fundamentally there is a major problem and the sensible thing for many businesses to do would be to move and for their employees to commute? Perhaps a service economy based on migrant labour is the way forward? If you want to invest there is a more competitive world to chose from.

    I can’t think of too many pluses with regard having our tax rates set by Westminster and us being in the Sterling zone. We are different from Scotland or Surrey we are the only part of Britain with a land border with another state. We don’t have a financial or insurance sector, we have few industries and insufficient investment. Indigenous wealth is investing elsewhere.

    About the only types of economy that would have any chance given the current disadvantages would be firstly tax havens and secondly one based on porn and drugs. Perhaps the UDA are ahead of the game?

  • As an aside, if they did get it, it would strengthen the Scots case for getting it as well and that would certainly weaken the Union if they did get it. Therefore, no-one’s getting it.

    That is certainly the UK Government’s thinking, but It’s important to note that the converse doesn’t necessarily hold. If the North stops pushing, the Scots won’t necessarily do the same. There are some interesting signs that they are getting their act together:

    SHONAIG Macpherson, chairman of the Scottish Council of Development and Industry (SCDI), says Scotland’s political leadership must re-examine its fiscal options, widen its horizons, and develop a clearer sense of national priorities if the country is to avoid being overwhelmed by externally-imposed changes.

    In a strongly worded speech to delegates at the SCDI’s annual forum in St Andrews last night, Macpherson warned that political, civic and business leaders must think more widely about Scotland’s fiscal position in the face of potential changes to the Barnett formula. (Scotsman)

  • Stevie

    IJP said

    “Remember what I said above, politics is not about positions, it is about priorities.”

    That’s rather strange IJP as I didn’t see the self-sufficiency of N Ireland in Alliance’s manifesto under Key Commitments. So when did this become a priority then?

    IJP also said that it would be great to go over to number 11 Downing St, etc and “look them straight in the eye”. Well, I’m sorry but the Government doesn’t have any integrity, especially not Mr Brown, look at the way he moved the Commons with his budget declaration of 2p less tax, then while the House was still clapping he mentioned the fact that the 10% rate was being removed.

    There’s nothing to be ashamed of about wanting to get as much money as possible out of a Treasury which is utterly contemptible and is skewed but not in favour of Northern Ireland.

    You’re a fool if you believe that being upright will win you admiration from a Government hell bent on doing what it sees fit.

    I find it all a bit much to be quite honest, especially given the timing, which would seem that Alliance are using it to lecture the other parties about taking money from Government.

    The less money obtained the more money will have to be raised locally, either Alliance is being obtuse or it’s just their pompous plutocrats raising their heads again, and if it is then they can pay-up in place of Treasury handouts, if it makes them sleep better at night.

  • Shinner

    Alliance also wants 11 to 15 councils instead of the proposed 7 super councils. That’s hardly cutting back on red tape and tax payers money is it now.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Inside Out:

    For example, I have heard they are always asking for money from their members to cover brief election shortfalls and running costs.

    Get back to me when you have a clue. All political parties are funded either by their members, or by fundraising efforts organized by their members.

    Mark:

    Maybe that might make the Alliance Party more credible when it speaks like this.

    How does the way a party funds itself have anything to do with national policy ?

    Maybe even attract more members that way also?

    Maybe you’re the sort of person who joins parties based on the way they fund themselves, but you’re the only one I’ve come across..

    David:

    The ridiculous d’Hondt/communal voting designation farce that was agreed in the GFA is partly as a result of the lack of serious thought from Alliance (and to a greater extent from the SDLP) as to how the “executive power sharing” slogan could ever be made into a practical political reality.

    Sorry, but that’s bollocks. Alliance has always advocated an executive elected by STV with weighted majority voting in the assembly. This was vetoed by the other parties, most loudly by the SDLP.

  • Inside Out

    I said:

    “For example, I have heard they are always asking for money from their members to cover brief election shortfalls and running costs.”

    Comrade Stalin said:

    “Get back to me when you have a clue. All political parties are funded either by their members, or by fundraising efforts organized by their members.”

    Yes but we are talking about self-sufficiency and whether MLAs, who are now elected and have been returned as a result of the labours of such members and have caused a financial deficit to the Party, should now return the favour in a manner conducive to self-sufficiency. I.e. pay back some money out of their salaries towards cost incurred.

    Or is it the case of asking members for more money, as per usual, which means less disposable for them and less for N.I. PLC consumption.

    It seems Alliance doesn’t want to know about self-sufficiency when it’s at home and on the kitchen table but yet it wants it regionally and at the expense of both its members and to everyone else.

    That’s my point. Enough said.

  • George

    Comrade Stalin,
    In the early 1990s I remember people saying to me that the Irish economy was fundamentally agrarian and that it would always rely on handouts from the EU. How wrong they were. I don’t believe there is anything specific about the Irish celtic tiger success story that we cannot replicate up here.

    It’s very simple what Northern Ireland has to do to replicate it. Northern Ireland has to do what the Republic did, namely bring its budget under control by suffering very horribly for a couple of years.

    The idea that Northern Ireland get success on a silver platter is ridiculous. What did the Republic do in a very short time after the 1987 budget?

    – Health expenditures cut by 6%
    – Education cut by 7%
    – agriculture cut by 18%
    – Roads and housing spending by 11 %
    – Military cut by 7%
    – IDA, Marketing Board and Tourist
    Board budgets slashed
    – Abolition of environmental watchdog Foras Forbatha, National Social
    Services Board, Health Education
    Bureau, Regional Development Organizations
    – public-sector employment cut by 8,000

    Is that the type of hard decision-making Alliance is willing to advocate to make itself self sufficient?

  • slug

    Crat

    “Agree with changing to a focused strategy, perhaps another University out west?”

    I have often thought that we should have three universities. Split the UU into two: the Coleraine/Magee part, and the Belfast/Jordanstown part (call it University of Belfast), and relocate most of the latter to Belfast around the present Cathedral Quarter site. Academics, and students, prefer to live in reasonably cosmopolitan cities, so creating a Belfast city location would make sense.

    Queens University and University of Belfast could cooperate in terms of running joint seminars and research groups if they wanted to create economies of scale and attracting speakers. But they could also have healthy competition for students.

    I wouldn’t build a new university in the West but instead I would build up the UU Coleraine/Magee sites.

  • Crataegus

    Slug

    I would like to see more development in and around the cathedral, and good University type activity would be ideal. It is an area with considerable potential. I have never liked that place out at Jordanstown but it is there.

    The point about education is that it is one area we could compete and expand but I believe there is a cap on the number of places.

  • IJP

    Stevie

    Eliminating waste (particularly £1 billion on segregation), locally accountable purse strings (tax-varying powers including for corporation tax) and promoting business (for example through a more effective planning system) are not only key parts of the manifesto, but more to the point have been the party’s core themes for at least the past two years. We even stated, and I quote, that there was already “plenty of money” available within the NI budget for free personal care, abolition of tuition fees, no water charges and lower rates without any negative impact on public services when Gordon Brown visited last year.

    If you’ve some ideas of your own, let’s hear them.

    Crat

    So we just give up, do we? Just meekly accept division, as we always have?

    Well it was tackled in the Netherlands, tackled in southwest Germany, and frankly even tackled in Liverpool successfully over a generation ago.

    Why should we be different?

  • COMRADE STALIN : RE YOUR COMMENT :

    “Are you the guy who bought it ? I’ve been past it a few times and it hasn’t seemed busy to me. The only way you’ll get people back in there is to put bouncers on the door and stop the hoods from the Markets getting in. I didn’t think they’d done that. I was also a bit put off by the advertisement of blatant touristy fiddledy-dee stuff on the signs outside”

    I cant allow such a thinly-veiled blatantly sectarian comment to go unchecked. Firstly your advice on how to get people back in there is both unnecessary irreleveant because they have ALREADY come back in vast numbers. Secondly, to describe a proud and vastly decent community such as The Markets as “hoods” is sectarianism of the highest order. Not a very Stalinesque comment methinks…

    Nor can i allow your comment about ” blatantly touristy fiddledy music” to go unchecked. What the hell is that exactly???? Traditional Irish folk has always been part of Maginnes bar’s rich history and indeed the city of Belfast.

    Your comments bely an underlying bigoted tone against both a decent community and traditional music which is a massive part of this city’s proud heritage. Perhaps before you offer decide to offer your opinions you should actually walk into the place rather than walk past and drawing upon totally unsubstantiated assumptions which yoy have dreamt up.

  • John East Belfast

    Having NI balance its books is an interesting aspiration but of course there is no easy answer within the present framework and I feel Alliance are engaging in populist soundbite politics – which of course they are getting good at.

    NI balancing its books wont drammatically improve the living standards of the citisens – just reduce the subsidy of UK Exchequer.

    When I was doing A Level Economics in the early eighties I recall being taught that Regional Policy (very much a Labour policy) was falling out of favour with the Free Market Thatherism beginning to take hold.
    ie capital will move to areas of abundant labour and lower wages and labour will move to areas with abundant employment. Unemployment and Inflation were the ecomic woes of those times not an imbalance of public and private sector expenditure.

    Of course we know we dont live in a totally free economy with uniform tax rates, minimum wage rates and various uniform UK & EU Laws and Standards.

    NI pays a UK Corporate Tax Rate of 28% because that is what the UK Govt believes is affordable (although under strain) to the vast majority of UK Corporate Tax Payers – espcially in the South East.

    They are quite happy for this to dull FDI in the regions and are also quite happy (when they think about it) to spread a bit of that wealth around the entire UK.
    If you start bringing in Regional Corporate Tax Rates then the HSBCs of the world just might think of having their registered office in Belfast.
    They could enjoy UK residency and UK Laws and get a lower UK Tax Rate
    ie it is not FDI that might start flowing into NI but existing UK corporates.

    This of course would have considerable creep problems throughout the rest of the UK and upset the whole fiscal balance and ultimately fiscal take within the UK.

    The ROI is an autonomous unit about one twelfth the size of a mature economy like the UK and realised that it needed major FDI to employ a young and educated workforce and create economic Growth.
    The lower Corporate Tax Rate was a masterstroke as it secured both blue collar jobs as well as white collar as the Foreign firms realised they had to keep the extra post tax profits in Ireland, with R&D Facilities, otherwise they would be taxed at higher rates at home anyway.

    However the ROI has to raise revenue from somewhere and consequently Stamp Duty @ 9% (v max 5%), ROI VAT @ 21% (v 17.5%) and higher rate of top Income Tax @ 41% kicking in earlier.

    You dont see NI asking for other ROI Tax rates.

    NI is an integral part of the UK and like the other regions of the UK it receives revenue distribution because although certain tax rates may be punative to those regions they nevertheless remain in the best interests of the UK as a whole.
    This is nothing to be ashamed off – to some extent I think this is what Paisley meant when he talked about his ‘birthright’.

    It might simply not be possible to balance the books of NI within a UK framework anymore tahn I suspect Donegall is balancing its books in the overall ROI scheme of things.

    However that does not mean we dont try – and fair play to Alliance for raising the bar.

    NI needs to play to its strenghts though.

    For those of us in industry and who compete on both national and international markets you realise just how good NI business and people are. We have often gone with reticence into other markets and then when we get there we realise just how poor the opposition is.

    I dont agree with some of what INI does and how they do it but I think their emphasis on Entrepreunership is the right direction.
    Of course Gordon Brown brought in one of the most under reported tax incentives – Business Taper Relief.
    Basically you can start a business in the UK and after two years sell it and only pay 10% Capital Gains tax – you wont get better than that.

    ie should we be scouring the world for FDI in search of tax breaks or should we be even further incentivising home grown entrepreuners who actually have a stake here.

    One way it could be helped along is by slashing our huge Public sector – basically too many good and well educated people are locked off from the Private Sector and/or have no incentive to start their own business because of the public sector security blanket.

    eg why should my wife’s NI Teacher wages be processed in Londonderry ? There is no reason why that data could be run in say Manchester ?
    Indeed there is no reason why Manchester’s could be run in Derry ?
    ie this also illustrates that Govt Expenditure can concentrate in the regions where private capital has fled from – and why not ? However people criticise public sector wages as a weakness.

    There is of course our whole under developed Tourist Industry.

    Apologies for this being so long.

  • DK

    ““Are you the guy who bought it ? I’ve been past it a few times and it hasn’t seemed busy to me. The only way you’ll get people back in there is to put bouncers on the door and stop the hoods from the Markets getting in. I didn’t think they’d done that. I was also a bit put off by the advertisement of blatant touristy fiddledy-dee stuff on the signs outside”

    I cant allow such a thinly-veiled blatantly sectarian comment to go unchecked. Firstly your advice on how to get people back in there is both unnecessary irreleveant because they have ALREADY come back in vast numbers. Secondly, to describe a proud and vastly decent community such as The Markets as “hoods” is sectarianism of the highest order. ”

    He said Hoods from the Markets, not that people from the Markets are Hoods.

    I used to go there but haven’t for years (long before the murder). I heard that a change in ownership led to a change in clientele that culminated in the murder. Is under new ownership now, or are we back to waiting for the next fight?

  • Bill

    “Belfast/Jordanstown part (call it University of Belfast),” Never
    ” and relocate most of the latter to Belfast around the present Cathedral Quarter site.” And never, again.

  • steve48

    The reason that this didn’t appear in the alliance manifesto is because they would have had to explain what it really meant.
    There are three ways of making the country sustainable increase income from taxes, reduce expenditure or a combination of both.
    Given that the mythical 1 billion is explained as reducing over provision of bus stops you can see that any further explanation is difficult for them. Perhaps IJP can you explain which if any schools, hospitals, leisure centres, bus stops etc you will close. What about reducing benefits and removing things like free tranport for senior citizens? What about the increase in taxes when companies are already moving abroad to reduce costs?
    Being fiscally sustainable is a wish of all governments but it takes more than the fantasy politics of the alliance party to achieve.

  • IJP

    steve48

    You can accuse the Alliance Party of many things – but “fantasy politics” is actually something we leave to the sectarian parties. They’re much better at it.

    Schools:
    Broadly as per Bain Review.

    Hospitals:
    None, but I would think some health centres would go.

    Leisure Centres:
    Belfast only needs 4 leisure centres, compared to 17 currently.

    Benefits/Taxes:
    As has been clear for some time, our objective is to reduce rates/taxes for business. As you know, we have no say over benefits.

    Other:
    We would also, for example, stop the nonsense of spending £12 million on Ulster Scots just because you’ve spent it on Irish (spending would depend on clearly thought-out plans).

    General:
    But I still can’t help think you’ve missed the point. Economic self-sufficiency will lead to higher public spending and lower taxes/rates – broadly as it did in the Republic.

    There’s nothing in the motion that says it’ll happen tomorrow, by the way. But an Alliance-led Government would already have a clear five-year plan in place by 8 May to move us significantly down that road. In turn, that would improve the case for more short-term funds from the Treasury, to make the long-term gains.

  • slug

    “But an Alliance-led Government would ..”

    seem to be some time off!

  • Crataegus

    John of East

    I agree we should be trying to build an indigenous economy. The problem is that we have a neighboring state that has deliberately set business rates etc lower to attract business. The taxes you quote such as VAT are mainly paid by individuals not businesses as business passes them on. Right now we are in danger of losing our haulage industry and with it much of the activity at our ports because of the differences in the cost of fuel.

    In Ireland there is an economy that deliberately, and with purpose, is ensuring that its business sector has an advantage. There are very few sectors that I can think of that relocation of the business to the south would not benefit that business. Difficult to create business growth with that back drop.

    Obviously much of the service sector cannot move, if you are a solicitor or in accountancy then generally you need to be where your customers live, but you need some form of wealth generator in the economy, we cannot rely on services or retail.

    The Omagh bomb did considerable damage to Tourism but it still has very good potential.

    Higher education is another sector we could expand, but there is a cap on University places. We need that lifted. I think there may also be scope in intensive trade training courses. One year crash Joinery course etc! Much needed, but if done right could also attract people to here to train. Need to increase skills generally and practical skills in particular.

    Health Care and dentistry. There is a good flow of money traveling North in this sector, we should look at increasing that flow. Why build a hospital in Donegal when you have one in Derry? There is a lot to be gained in cross border cooperation.

    The Construction Industry in the North is generally strong and we have some good haulage companies and very efficient dock facilities. Need to look at the sectors that are strong and listen to what they are saying. Perhaps enterprise type zones around docks and airports to facilitate international trade?

    The EURO. It may be that we need to encourage the use of the Euro locally. Virtual duel currency? It would be good for tourism and the lower interest rates in the Euro Zone are probably. more important to new local industries than corporation tax reductions.

    Energy; another area where cooperation makes sense. We need to get energy costs down. We should also be considering the trying to expand the Norths telecommunications network across the border.

    I still think we need fiscal control and though that is unlikely we need to keep making an issue of it. Imagine for one minute that East Anglia was a separate country with lower duty, no VAT on theatre tickets and 12.5% Corporation tax. I would bet that those in the UK (London particularly) would be changed at the blink of an eye.

  • Crataegus

    IJP

    Of course you can’t give up, but we should all keep asking for fiscal control and the lifting of any restrictions that unfairly penalise our attempts at recovery.

    The major problem in the UK is lack of economic balance we have over activity in the South and many areas in the North that are flat lining. Very inefficient.

    I agree the cost of segregation is ridiculous and as for Ulster Scots why finance someone’s hobby. I once thought that that started as a joke about Irish, apparently not. With health however I think there is opportunity to seek to treat Southern patients for remuneration. It is amazing how many come north for dentistry. If we can provide care (at a fee) across the border why not?

    Which 13 of Belfast’s Leisure Centres does the Alliance Party propose closing? They are underused but again they are there and they are a potential asset. They could be used more and if better run could generate income. I wish I owned a few of them!!

    With regards Council spending generally, I was never very keen on the proposed reorganisation as reorganisation and branding usually lead to massive costs. However if we are going down that route why not get rid of the councils all together? Save a fortune and NI is of modest size. Could add a few MLAs to each constituency to compensate but overall would save serious money.

    In NI we need to have a serious look at community – quango land. There are a lot of good people tied up in that sector. Ultimately it is a dead end. It would be better to make this money available to local Credit Unions as that would efficiently benefit those in need or trying to set up a business in deprived areas. The advantage would be that the money would be in the form of loans, would not distort the market and as the loans are repaid would remain available.

  • Stevie

    Hear this, hear this: 1700 Health jobs could go in health cuts!

    Hurrah Alliance you’re self-sufficiency is on its way.

    Good call chappies tillie tallie ho!