SDLP identify an extra £400 million…

One thing that seems to mark both the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP is a certain timidity in marking out their separate policy ground from the two incumbent parties… Yet the SDLP today made some bold suggestions on where to find extra monies… (we’ve been expecting a finance paper from the DUP for some days now, so they may have been ‘waiting to see’, before publishing theirs)… It makes for interesting reading (though they could have been bolder and broken with the stultifying consensus on subsidising rates and water rates from an already stretched public purse)… Especially Chpater three: where they plan to get the money from

Update: Bobballs has some useful thoughts on this

Going back to the ugly platypus simile (the platypus, not the simile), this ugly jumble of forest and car park fire-sales (which will net little value), PFI schemes for the Housing Exec HQ (anyone told John Dallat) and tired old guff about comfortable old Sir Humphrey may not attract admiring glances from policy wonks. But I’m more struck by the SDLP’s courage of articulating a constructive alternative vision.

– Housing Executive re-profiling its debt they reckon could release £70 million…

– Persuading the Port of Belfast to voluntarily reallocate £30million to the Titanic Signature Project, allowing the Executive to extricate that sum for its own purposes.. £30 million

– Invest NI to be raided for £15million per year for two years…

– And a plan to build a stadium in Belfast…

– Sale of 6% of the Forest Service Estate in year one and a further 6% in year two could be sold off at a profit of around £36million.

– Sale and lease back of the Housing Executive head quarters: £16-17million capital…

£400 million, is a fair whack of cash…withdraw the rates subsidy and you’d be able to pay off Brown’s demands for pay back and cover a lot of the current short fall…

We can thank our lucky stars our people are not having to steer the ship through the deeper waters of the international bond markets…

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  • 6countyprod

    It’s good to see the SDLP getting their act together a little bit better.

  • The main event, in both the SDLP and the Fealty proposals, seems eminently sound. There is something endemically wrong with the whole financing and taxing of property in NI.

    The Housing Executive must be the last remaining outpost of the benevolent Raj, Even this old-Tribunite recognises that a bit of the cold wind of reality is necessary. Why not simply give the houses away? If the tenants don’t want them, hand them over to ad-hoc Housing associations.

    Equally, the rates/water rates subventions have to go, sooner or later. In exchange, there might well be stricter controls on energy prices: those has been the main variable in recent months (thanks to the dependence on oil central-heating).

    I’m less convinced on the notion of sale-and-leaseback. That works only as a short-term measure (the UK Treasury will realise it over the next decade), and while the notional asset can be safely lodged in an off-shore tax haven (which I thought was now verboten).

    I’m not au-fait wth the forestry thing. It wasn’t a great Thatcherite success in places like the Thetford Forest, but (as I recall) the odd Beatle and others made a killing in destroying the Caithness Flow country.

    However, this of all evenings, after the Lenihan budget, I’m glad not to be a Tory/Rightist/whatever trying to write my overnight press release: “Gordon saved us from the Euro” or “Whoops, it’s all the fault of the free market!”?

  • Sorry about the solecisms in the previous post.

    As explained on another thread, I’m deep into Eric Clapton’s Blues. I can only deal with so much excellence at one time.

  • 6countyprod

    ‘solecisms’

    what in the world is a solecism? A grammatical mistake of some sort?

  • Dewi

    P.S> Malcolm – forget Blues – get onto Brugha – at this rate you will still be on “B” in 2021.

  • Kensei

    It makes for interesting reading (though they could have been bolder and broken with the stultifying consensus on subsidising rates and water rates from an already stretched public purse)

    Raise taxes, perhaps substantially, in the middle of a recession? I know the Republic has just adopted a fetching hair shirt but it isn’t something you do if you can at all avoid it. Given the largesse of the English, we probably don’t, for now.

    – Housing Executive re-profiling its debt they reckon could release £70 million…

    Sounds ok

    – Persuading the Port of Belfast to voluntarily reallocate £30million to the Titanic Signature Project, allowing the Executive to extricate that sum for its own purposes.. £30 million

    I wonder how that works?
    “Can you give us £30 million”
    “No”

    – Invest NI to be raided for £15million per year for two years…

    Great idea. Better one: abolish it and use the money for something useful.

    And a plan to build a stadium in Belfast…

    Not entirely convinced by the case for it, given the Maze money is gone.

    Sale of 6% of the Forest Service Estate in year one and a further 6% in year two could be sold off at a profit of around £36million.

    Seems like wanton vandalism.

    Sale and lease back of the Housing Executive head quarters: £16-17million capital…

    Bad idea.

    We can thank our lucky stars our people are not having to steer the ship through the deeper waters of the international bond markets…

    Totally incorrect. If we could issue our own bonds, we would have an avenue for raising needed cash if we so choose. It should have been a power we secured. There is precedent IRC.

  • I pretty much agree with Kensei. I must say it is refreshing to see a proposal at last, it is a contrast from the total lack of leadership shown by the two main parties. It’s no good patting yourselves on the back for the sheer fact of creating a budget, guys, if the budget is a fiction.

    On the substance of the document I welcome the broad Keynesian fiscal stimulus elements, especially bringing forward labour intensive construction programmes and social housing. I also agree with raiding the Invest NI coffers and re-targeting their focus on a wider variety of businesses. The triage loans and the micro finance loans are a great idea and will really help small firms as the banks most certainly will not. In terms of finding the money I think the rates rises on banks and phone companies are a great idea but am not so sure about selling off our forests. They would need to make sure that the new arrangement is sustainable and all the caveats are realistic. Definitely need to cut the consultancy and the civil service bonuses at the top level. The selling and leasing back of the Housing Executive HQ is a bit short-term I think. Even though the point is to raise money in the short term to provide a stimulus, I think it would be a shame to lose the building and the rent might become a bit of a drain on resources in the long term, especially as they are already making cuts. I would worry about selling off DSD carparks in case the private sector jacks up the prices too much. There would need to be a clause or something in the contract stipulating that prices would need to be index linked.

    I think the wage subsidy idea is pretty clever although just handing out money to business is questionable. They should have to pay it back at a reasonable rate of interest if indeed they are capable of developing their competitiveness (they need to be able to demonstrate that to qualify for a wage subsidy in the first place). Support for gas is good, especially if it gets people back in work to build and maintain the infrastructure. I am positive about developing electricity infrastructure to harness renewables for reasons both environmental and geopolitical.

    Social housing speaks for itself; social housing itself is a good and so is the labour intensive nature of its construction. Insulation is good too and hopefully the money will be there to continue to the Winter Fuel Payments. Ditto, the re-profiling of the debt. No reason not to. I like the idea of the hardship fund just to act as a safety net for those who fall through the cracks. I know of people fighting off bailiffs and the like so anything at all to help is welcome.

  • TK

    Its good to see some new proposals. But some of what is suggested is a non starter. For example – the Port of Belfast has reserves of £40m- nearly £18m is committed to the Titanic Signature project which is a not for profit venture and hundreds of millions are planned for improving the Port infrastructure. To date the Port has expanded not by the use of taxpayers money but their own reserves. Raiding their coffers in a downturn means the taxpayer would then have to fund any future expansion! Businesses are dying at the moment due to lack of cash- here we have one business which is prudent and the SDLP solution is to put it into a vulnerable position. The other suggestions of sale and lease back and the off loading of carparking sites which DRD -DSD cant run is a good idea. The car parks net £17m in revenue but cost £22m to run. Proof as if it was needed that there are somethings that the Government should n’t be involved in at all. The budget should be revised in light of the current economic climate but that should include the Executive freebies – rates relief for manufacturing business; the freeze on domestic rates; water charges, prescription charges and the cheques for flooding for people too careless to have insurance! And of course -double jobbing. Gordon Brown should make politicians cboose whether they want to serve in a regional assembly or parliament but not both.

  • Good to see some leadership on the issue. I think there is merit is looking at the reserves despite TK’s concerns.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I appreciate the SDLP trying to put forward constructive solutions, it’s nice to see people trying to make an effort. Unfortunately the SDLP proposal does not address :

    – useless quangos and the costs of running them, Patricia Lewsley’s office being a case in point
    – benefit fraud and abuse – or misuse – running unchecked, especially DLA
    – ill-disciplined salary arrangements for public sector senior civil servants and chief executives. Why does the Chief Executive of NI Water get paid twice as much as the Prime Minister ? I don’t accept the “we need the right talent” thing, I can’t believe there are no talented managers who would work for £100,000/year + expenses which would be half of what the current chief executive earns.
    – review the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. It has a budget of £231m which is spent on .. giving grants to private sector businesses. There’s got to be a cheaper way.

  • Mick Fealty

    You have to factor in CS that this is regional administration. In which case you need account for two things: clientelism; and using up budgets. A good programme of public sector reform would be a rational response, but whose being rational these days?

    Ken, you don’t need to be sovereign state to issue bonds; and they have a number of suggestions on that. It just ain’t going to raise 90 billion.

  • Jo

    How with NI Water be funded, if not from water charges?

    This is a call on the NI Block for the foreseeable future.

    NO mention, surprisingly?

    Perhaps not.. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    MLA wage freeze. Anyone know when they had their last pay rise?

  • Michael Shilliday

    1998. No pay rise since I think

  • kensei

    Mick

    It just ain’t going to raise 90 billion.

    I wasn’t aware we were in need of 90 Billion. That’s about 20 times the subvention.

  • Mick Fealty

    It was a rhetorical reference to estimated extent of the Republic’s bad bank borrowing ken…