Paying for devolution…

“A cut in the rate of corporation tax is vital if Northern Ireland’s economy is to succeed,” the Tele reports DUP First Minister Ian Paisley – who intends to stand for Westminster again – telling the Ulster Fry fringe breakfast at the Labour Party conference. However, yesterday in the Assembly, DUP Finance Minister Peter Robinson clearly didn’t think it would be the end of the world if the tax wasn’t cut. Regardless of the difference in emphasis in senior DUP ranks, and because the Assembly doesn’t have any tax-varying powers and is only expecting a 1% increase (in real terms) in Westminster’s block grant, questions are now being raised about how Northern Ireland will pay for its upkeep. Selling off public buildings is a ‘no brainer’ (surely folly to use that phrase, Peter?) PFI schemes? At the moment that’s on hold until next year, thanks to Partenaire’s legal challenge to being left out of tendering. Regional and domestic rate increases (he wants to fix the levels of the latter for three years)? Well, Robbo seems to have something in mind. How would you feel about road tolls? A tax on property developers (probably not Paisley Jr’s favourite option)? Higher Planning Service charges (assuming they ever get to your application) and a hike in MOT fees are all being discussed, according to Chris Thornton.