Modestly provocative proposals for dealing with NI’s gapping fiscal black hole

UTV this evening runs what promises to be a fascinating programme on what three experts would do to address Northern Ireland’s public finance deficit – around £600m give or take, assuming some sort of deal on Welfare Reform and taking into account Barnett consequentials.

I am not an expert, of course, but merely a humble citizen. But, for the fun of it, here are some thoughts on what I personally (writing in a purely personal capacity) would do.

This applies only to what is known as Departmental Expenditure (currently almost exactly £10b) – it does not refer to Annually Managed Expenditure (c. £8b) or UK Treasury spending in or for Northern Ireland (c. £5b).

Revenue Raising

I outlined the case for Revenue Raising on my own blog weeks ago, but should be clear I would not actually do all of it personally. Also, I would set out a five-year strategy for raising revenue, not just one, so that households and businesses could be prepared; and I would be specific about where the money so raised would go.

Personally, I would be inclined to do the following:

1. Remove the Rates Cap and Raise Regional Rates by 7% for 2015/16 and inflation plus 3% for the four years thereafter to raise £50 million in year one and another £100 million over the next Assembly term.

This would be allocated to the Health Budget, specifically to ensure the availability of cancer drugs.

2. Introduce Motorway Tolls (at levels similar to the Republic of Ireland) at M1 Ballyskeagh, M2 Ballycraigy [i.e. the new service stations] and A2 Dee Street to raise £75 million per year.

This would be allocated to the Capital Budget, specifically to ensure the construction of key freeflows and expressways along the A1, A6 and A2, with extra specific benefits:

  • assurance to the hard-pressed construction industry that projects will proceed;
  • improved connections for the North West and improved safety;
  • greater use of public transport by commuters (to avoid tolls) thus alleviating the funding problems in that area; and
  • in the longer term, it is easier to apply to the European Investment Bank for loans for tolled roads than not.

3. Introduce water charges, but deferred by one year (the year of the most significant Regional Rates increase) and not brought in fully until the 2019/20 financial year to raise £100 million in 2016/17 rising to £250 million in 2019/20.

The would be allocated to the Capital Budget aimed primarily at the upgrading of water and sewerage infrastructure, but also perhaps to more general infrastructure projects such as the North-South electricity pipeline, thus securing sufficient power and water even in emergencies in preparation for the closure of the Kilroot power station in 2021.

(See also my note on a Levy in Indirect Savings below.)

Not Revenue Raising

Note that the above means, at least initially, I would not re-introduce Prescription Charges (the amount so raised simply isn’t worth it and I fail to see why people with progressive conditions should pay a particular penalty in effect simply for having them); nor would I introduce bin charges or fire call-out charges.

The Regional Rate even if it added Water Charges would remain the lowest household charge in the UK even at the end of the next Assembly term (meaning Northern Ireland would retain its status as the UK’s “lowest taxed region”, all else being equal).

It is possible that pressure would come to have income tax and aggregates levy devolved to Northern Ireland, as will now be the case in Scotland. In principle, I support this (as I support a Federal UK and thus the same powers for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales). In practice, however, I would leave them unchanged either way.

Direct savings

I am sure there is a technical term for this, but what I mean here is “government give-aways” which should be re-assessed.

1. I would be inclined to leave tuition fees alone, but would contemplate raising them slightly during the next Assembly term if the DEL (or successor department) budget remained tight – raising them is a progressive taxation move as they are only paid by graduates upon earning a certain amount in any case, but I would be wary immediately of imposing further financial problems (even if long-term) on young people (even if confined to a particular group).

2. I would restrict concessionary fares (i.e. those for over-60s and Translink’s own staff and families) on public transport to non-peak hours; it may not then be necessary to raise the qualifying age to apply only to pensioners. It is hard to say precisely what this would save, but it may be in the region of £20 million annually initially, and rising.

Anything so raised would be reallocated to public transport to secure new routes and maintain fares at roughly the current level. It would also have the benefit of increasing train capacity during non-peak hours (and probably reducing it slightly during peak hours).

Indirect savings

Even with all this, I have only saved about a quarter of the £600 million gap in Year One (which exists even with Welfare Reform implemented and the Treasury’s October loan paid off), and in practice with pressure on Health budgets and the immediate requirement to invest in infrastructure, I am probably still only treading water with subsequent rises. We still need close to half a billion from somewhere!

1. I would be inclined towards a voluntary public service redundancy scheme aimed primarily at Health and Education administrators and Civil Servants. Some suggest this would save £300m, though I am not so sure in the current jobs climate. Let’s guesstimate half that – £150m.

2. I would run a fundamental Public Sector and Assembly Reform Programme over the next Assembly Term, including:

  • reduction in the number of Departments to six (Education, Economy, Environment, Health, Justice, Treasury);
  • abolition of OFMDFM and its replacement by a small Executive Office (which no longer requires Junior Ministers);
  • removal of the Finance Unit from all Departments, with all payments made directly from (and indeed to) the NI Treasury;
  • removal of two Civil Service grades;
  • legislation to ensure local Councils take on only functions relevant to them (no more “European Officers” and such like); and
  • reduction in the size of the Assembly to 90 members and reduction in Office Costs Allowance for Ministers and the Speaker.

I have no idea what this would save, frankly! However, it would have extremely positive long-term effects not just on reducing the cost of government but also on improving cooperation/efficiency and simplifying access to information and services for citizens.

3. I would be inclined towards what would no doubt be a highly controversial but temporary Public Sector Levy (not totally dissimilar from the Pension Levy introduced in the Republic of Ireland six years ago).

The point is this: average earnings in Northern Ireland are roughly 88% of the UK average, yet average household income is 96% – the gap is made up partly by slightly higher welfare receipts but mainly by our lower “household taxes” (most obviously a Regional Rate averaging about £800 versus Council Tax+Water Charges averaging about £1900).

Public Sector earnings in Northern Ireland, however, are 99% of the UK average meaning that households with earners in the public sector are in fact considerably better off than they are elsewhere in the UK (a household with two public sector workers will on average be £600 better off).

The levy would be designed, therefore, to make up for that differential. It would probably decline over the course of the Assembly Term (as Regional Rates rose and Water Charges were introduced) and would likely initially be introduced at 2% of pre-tax income – on all public sector workers by a loose estimate this would raise (save) £120 million, although I would be inclined to exempt direct service positions (like nurses or teachers).

Cuts

We are nearly there – with a voluntary redundancy programme, a reform programme and a temporary levy, I have probably mustered another £300 million. I am three quarters of the way there!

It is worth noting, however, that I have done this without implementing any actual “cuts”.

1. I would remove the exemption of Education from efficiency savingssaving £70 million.

These would predominantly have to be found at administrative level, for example by sectors having to share services. However, there is no doubt further school mergers (ahem, closures) would follow. This would be initially painful, but in the long run makes for a sensible rationalisation of the school estate.

2. Further to the above, I would integrate Teacher Training.

This does, in effect, mean the closure of the site at St Mary’s or Stranmillis (likely the former). That is the way it is; we cannot afford such duplication.

3. Further to that, I would introduce further integration of facilities.

For example, it may be possible marginally to reduce funding to local government (i.e. allocating a larger share of the Rates bill to central government) in the expectation that they would invest in shared leisure centres.

4. I would streamline planning.

Further to the rationalisation of Departments above, the Planning System remains a burden. It causes delays, frustrates investment and can so much as double infrastructure construction costs versus Continental Europe.

5. I would “invest to save” in improved management of public services.

Currently decision making takes too long, involves (in particular) too many meetings, and consists of terms such as “framework”, “strategy” and “collaboration” which have frankly lost all meaning!

Conclusion

I think I am just about there!

As can be seen, it is not easy. I have introduced motorway rolls, radically streamlined government, introduced extra charges and levies, and I have closed some facilities (and I had assumed the introduction of Welfare Reform minus “Bedroom Tax”).

Yet, interestingly, I have secured better medicines, introduced better infrastructure, and brought in more efficient government. It is not all bad!

I have left some things untouched too. I have not taken the scythe to the voluntary sector; I have left arts and minority languages funding in place; I have not introduced Prescription Charges.

Of course, no one reading this will agree with every item. As I’ve long said, compromise is a good thing – so over to the readers here and the panellists on UTV tonight!

 

,

  • Dan

    I wouldn’t allow them to raise rates above inflation or introduce tolls, most especially before any of your proposed cuts and reforms.
    They haven’t had the balls, or the political pressure on them, to take those long overdue necessary steps.

  • Neil

    Belfast “on the move” was supposedly to force motorists onto the motorways around Belfast and out of the city centre. Now it’s Belfast “at a bloody standstill” at least twice a week. I think we’ve suffered enough under our current crop of politicians with regard to our ability to get to work in the morning.

  • Bryan Magee

    The universities contribute a lot to the economy… This is central to the research economy clusters that have worked well elsewhere in developing a high skill enterprise economy … and setting them free by raising the cap on tuition fees has been successful in england, and of course it’s progressive as you only pay if you are already rich.

  • Bryan Magee

    A London style congestion charge would work well in belfast but proceeds would need to improve rail capacity on the northern route.

  • puffen

    One Health Board, One Education Board, run by their respective Stormont Committees, or is that too simple?

  • chrisjones2

    All utter nonsense I am afraid.

    Tolls on the A2? So we all block the airport Road and Newtownards Road instead?

    Exemption of Education from efficiency savings etc etc? Great so lets just force through integration of the lot. Timescale for implementation (if we had competent civil servants and Ministers and we don’t) 3 to 5 years with substantial costs for redundancies and charges to accounts for reduction in value of surplus estate

    Streamline planning?What do we do as its just been devolved.Have you met many Councillors? Offer all Councillors a nice bung to see things through, Just watch planning grind to a halt over the next 2 years

    Improve management of public services?First you need to replace 50% and retrain the rest of the NI SCS -timescale[n 5 years and you are relying on the turkeys to run the abattoir

    Meantime raising rates should nicely exceed any reduction in Corporation Tax and deter inward investment

    Tax and spend…tax and spend.

  • chrisjones2

    What for.The fundamental issue is that the traffic doesn’t justify the investment A rational approach would be to close NIR and invest in more buses

  • Mister_Joe

    “..merely a humble citizen..”

    Yeah, right.

  • Zeno3

    All sounds a bit complicated Ian. Why don’t you just form an army of sneak thieves, burglars and pickpockets and get them to go around stealing from the public. That way you would be creating employment as well.

  • Jonny

    Prescription charges are very much doable and worthwhile. When they were scrapped, the cost of admin/fraud took away any financial benefit. 38m items are prescribed (yes – really) each year in NI. A nominal £1 charge per item (previously as high as £6.85 in NI and currently £8.05 in England) would raise £38m with no admin costs. Some safeguards obviously need to be built in i.e.cap for those receiving multiple items on a regular basis.

    It would also go some way to funding specialist drugs for cancer (and other less high profile diseases(!!)). It’s a social contract that I think most would sign up to.

  • Zeno3

    So you want people who are sick through no fault of their own to be penalised further?
    I think a civilised society should at least look after our less fortunate. There has to be better ways to save a few quid.

  • Jonny

    Honestly, I don’t think that £1 is a huge burden. I agree that there are those who are sick through no fault of our own however the flip side of that is that the majority of sickness and illness is as a consequence of our lifestyles. An ONS report this week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-30288536), showed for example that people in NI spend the most on cigarettes, alcohol and takeaway compared to the rest of the UK. If we can afford that, we can afford our healthcare.

    I’m not saying it should be no.1 priority – just raising it as Ian had ruled it out in his article.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    How about a tax for taking in air?

  • Bryan Magee

    What do you mean the traffic doesn’t justify it? Its standing-room-only on the northern line these days a lot of the time. Its at full capacity.

  • kalista63

    A huge amount of our population would still qualify for free prescriptions and we would still have to set up a new system, with office and personnel costs, to administer the system.

  • kalista63

    Many years ago I saw a poster of 2 buzzards and one says to the other, f**k this,I’m gonna kill something.

    We’ve had and still have, to a lesser degree, industry that was/is successful on a world wide basis. We’re on a fek’n island administered by guys across a sea with a push poor transport infrastructure. The idea that everyone is capable of working in IT and such is just plain silly. Our, the west’s, best days were in the days of mass industrial production.

    Awful as it sounds, I firmly believe that a successful economy is one that gives its thickest workers a decent wage and only industry can do that. We’ve new industries, especially the green one and and decent research facilities in QUB. Instead for throwing £millions at FDI. lets get industry back, let’s be like the buzzard, doing something rather than waiting for pickings.

  • kalista63

    A tax on expelling air would make more sense.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The most obvious government giveaway is the DETI subsidies … any introduction of lower corporation tax should see these reduced significantly for anything bar the minimums… small business, environment/renewable energy and open-access R&D (as opposed to corporate R&D). We need a phase in/phase out approach here. Low tax rate is better than giving companies our money in the hope they will return something down the line, which we are doing now.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Is this satire, in the style of my “Is this what a united ireland would look like” article? I’m not sure whether I should take it seriously (and be terrified) or laugh (and be worried)… Why don’t we just sell Tyrone, Armagh & parts of Londonderry to Ireland? Brown did it with the gold and the parks, Robinson can do it with the hinterlands.

  • Jonny

    I’m arguing for no exemptions (inc under 16s, over 65s etc). Only exception is for those requiring a multiplicity of items on a regular basis e.g. £5 cap max charge for the whole script. No back office admin required if everyone pays.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Industry is far from dead, we are industrial, we will never be post-industrial because to get things done requires work. We need oil, but without oil miners, oil refiners and oil rig designers we wouldn’t have an oil industry anywhere in the world. What we would have would be (literally) crude underground concepts and a few meaningless purchasing rights that cant be acted on.

    I come from a science, technology, engineering and mathematics background, I’ve studied energy production, electronic components and circuitry, hardware architecture, semiconductor manufacture, computer programming, fiber optics, network management, magnetic memory.
    And only because I have masters degrees in physics, electronic engineering and computer science and I would not trust myself to fix the broken plate of glass on my iPad, which someone without those degrees could do.

    But I hate the phrase I.T. to me I.T. is utterly meaningless and here’s why.

    I.T. can literally mean anything involving a technology but not anything requiring more information than that. IT is tweeting in public, IT is science-fiction, IT is manufacturing hardware, IT is coding data … IT could be anything. For all it’s worth, I could say the shop assistant in the counter who uses a barcode scanner is in IT for what it means these days. In I.T. we’ve taken an acronym and amazingly turned I.T. into something more vague than what the letters I and T actually spells. When you speak of anything as “it” you are talking about some sort of object or concept, but I.T. is so vague, vacuumous and intangible it’s not even really an “it”

  • Kevin Breslin

    Great argument for decentralization of many industries, particularly retail and engineering. Belfast gets too much … Derry, Coleraine, Lisburn, Newry, Armagh, Omagh, Enniskillen, Ballymena even Letterkenny, Drogheda, Sligo etc. … they’ve all got opportunities for industries that won’t be present in a crowded Belfast, which must be driving away consumers, workers and suppliers.

  • kalista63

    If you live on 70 odd quid a week, every pound is significant.

  • Neil

    Even greater argument for removing some of the more idiotic bus lanes. Belfast was the 3rd most congested city in the UK before the laughably named Belfast on the move. We’ve now moved to the top of that list.
    Only here would politicians decide to reduce the capacity of our already strained infrastructure and have a hugely negative impact on the quality of life of the workers in the main city, all done intentionally.

  • Sharpie

    Just because collaboration is done wrongly here doesn’t mean it is not useful or meaningful, indeed in many cases it is the only hope of fixing lots of social ills.

    I like the Jamie Lerner quote, once mayor of Curitiba who had remarkable success on small budgets – real creativity happens when you take a zero off the budget.

    Presenting the top line budget allows opportunities for creativity and removal of old ways of doing things. But the creativity only comes from collaboration.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Interesting article but can’t see any off the NI political parties writing any of the proposals into their next manifesto. Water Charges, Student Fees, Restriction on Concession Fares, Public Sector Levy Tax, School Closures. Maybe Alliance Party the closest you will get !

  • Slugger for PM.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You’re clearly sore enough about this to bring it up twice.

    I commute to Belfast by car and it takes 25 minutes at peak time, which is about the same length of time that it took before the recent changes. The reason why there is congestion is because it’s too cheap and easy to do so, and because the public transport alternatives are poor. Not because of the bus lanes. It should improve, though, when the e-way thing goes ahead.

  • Temporary Direct now, may save us from ourselves.

    Northern Ireland is yet again at cross roads, government is broken, has not worked in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland since GFA inception and
    will not take us towards a new and better future until the fudge of 1998,
    orchestrated by Tony Blair, is re-written to allow proper government structures,
    with an official Opposition, which will allow all parties to participate in a
    real democracy, rather than the sham that passes for power sharing in today’s
    Assembly.

    Failure to agree a way forward on Welfare Reform is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, along with key problems facing our education system, disagreements over what to do with Maze peace and reconciliation centre, petty parades issues, flags and the past. Other executive ‘cock-ups’ conveniently swept under the carpet, such as at NIHE, A&E Care Homes, NHS,aborted roads in the West, police training centres, etc., have cost us £millions. Failure to implement Welfare Reform, some wishing to gamble £200/300 million on Corporation Tax with no guarantees of a return on for many years to come.

    Building a United Northern Ireland remains incomplete and half-hearted. DUP/SF lack of leadership and their willingness to use the ‘Petition of Concern’ system, which they have both abused, has moved us closer the economic brink. A dysfunctional
    Executive and lack of mature leadership is costing Northern Ireland dearly and
    will seriously impact on our reputation abroad and all our futures.

    Given that the current Good Friday Agreement is not working and that 15 years has passed without the support of the two main participants, the time has come for
    Governments at Westminster and Dublin to take drastic action and amend the
    Treaty, which allows for the following;

    “If difficulties arise which require remedial action across the range of institutions, or otherwise require amendment of the British-Irish Agreement or relevant legislation, the processof review will fall to the two Governments in consultation with the parties in the Assembly. Each Government will be responsible for action in its own
    jurisdiction.”

    There seems little chance that current talks will end in any meaningful long-lasting
    agreement.

    A temporary Direct Rule from Westminster is now needed.

    Away from Assembly paralysis, perhaps there would be potential for clearer minds to reassess the reality of where we are and given a ‘time out’ NI politicians will need to agree an agenda for future government for the benefit of all the people of Northern
    Ireland, rather than just the followers of particular Parties.

    Under Mandatory Coalition, without opposition, the two hard-line parties, with only a 30% mandate between them, exclusively dictate to everyone else what happens in all aspects of our lives. No further elections nor devolution of powers should be
    considered until Parties reach compromise amongst themselves and pre-agree a
    strategy for proper democracy, including official opposition, before being allowed to hold further elections. A formal Opposition MUST be a prerequisite to any future Executive structure.

    Compulsory Voting should be introduced and new cross-community parties with a United Northern Ireland dimension encouraged to set up, in order to allow ‘the disenfranchised’ non-voters to re-engage with politics. The chances are that existing Parties such as SDLP and UUP will soften their stance on some divisive issues in order to attract the 40% now obliged to vote. This is also likely to help SF/DUP ditch some of their sectarian positions.

    At the end of this process we might come away with a new wholly inclusive political
    structure that caters for the whole community, with emphasis on creating a
    United Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom family, until such time that
    a majority choose by referendum to leave the UK, as is currently allowed for under
    the current GFA. A new Northern Ireland flag may be a good starting point to a
    new future.

    We have an opportunity now to move Northern Ireland into the 21st century and
    the promise of a bright future to our young people. Let us also take a leaf out of Scotland’s Referendum and allow 16-18 year olds have the vote. This needs to be combined with independent in-school courses on politics to ensure they have the knowledge they require.

  • Neil

    I have an unlucky 7 mile commute which has taken over an hour at least 5 times in the past fortnight, tonight included. And that was after 6 pm. There are fewer lanes so obviously greater congestion combined with bus sensitive lights on my route that mean bus barricades across all lanes which can add 15 – 20 minutes depending on luck. I definitely am sore about it though and for me the public transport is a non runner.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It depends what the 7 mile run is.

    I also commute 7 miles from Whiteabbey. At worst in the mornings, it’s a clear run to the M2/M5 junction, then slowly towards the M2/Westlink junction, then stop-start around town to Great Victoria St. That takes about 25 minutes. On a Sunday when there is no traffic it takes 10.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The train is better at attracting people to public transport.

    The reason why we have congestion in Belfast is because it’s simply too cheap and easy to drive.

  • Comrade Stalin

    No, we don’t need temporary direct rule. We need to vote for politicians who will run the country properly.

  • Zeno3

    There are none.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There are politicians who would do better than the current crop. There will never be politicians, ever, who tick every box for every voter.

  • Virginia

    That and a tax on ROI passports.

  • kensei

    Modesty provocative?

    Water charges, huge hike on rates and you’ve probably ensured strike action by the levy on the public sector (maybe exempt nurses and teachers?) who have had limited raises for the entire Parliament – plus a ton of job losses on top! Oh and a forced integration of services passed to councils at high risk of carrying it out in a sectarian manner. I’d hate to see your very provocative proposals, because those are electoral suicide.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Vote Buzzards!

    Yes Kalista, I agree.

    In my economically illiterate mind I conjured up an idea to give industry a lift. I think the EU might have a thing or two to say about it but I’m not sure, anyway, it goes something like this:

    0% tax for anything manufactured in NI and 0% tax for those companies (applicable only to those plants and factories that tick the heavily vetted boxes of ‘manufacturing’).

    Now, to save the government a bit of money from the lost tax revenue I propose that these same manufacturing companies have the right to pay a substantially lower min wage thereby making us competitive with manufacturing sectors in more eastern lands.
    BUT any worker who falls under this category of ‘less than minimum wage’ MUST be allowed to retain their housing benefit.

    To encourage recruitment I’d start peeling away unemployment benefits from locals bit by bit e.g. if someone has been unemployed for 15 years and is living within 3km of one of these factories, well, thy days are numbered, you can go and load spark plugs or whatever onto trucks at the new factory. Close the door on yer way out…

    *So, from the workers’ point of view they still have a roof over their heads and MORE money than what they would have than if they remain on the dole.

    *The companies obviously benefit by now being able to manufacture/exist at all

    *There would also be a demand for white collar workers such as engineers, accountants, plant managers, HRM-bots etc. who can all be taxed

    *Maybe even apprenticeships (a big fan of apprenticeships)?

    The government may lose some tax from this initiatially but at the same time it is reducing part of its welfare bill and has lots of newly created jobs that it can tax.
    Much better than having a PO Box for Google or whomever would officially ‘move’ operations to NI.

    Like I say, I’m economically illiterate (think ‘wreckonomics’) and now doubt it would be difficult to marry together government benefits with private industry but it’s surely doable?

    As from the EU’s point of view, I won’t hold my breath…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    What?

    To reduce congestion you’d close the alternative to automobiles and encourage more, larger automobiles onto the already congested roads?

    Just looking at the map there’s hardly any stops between Europa and Antrim, that’s 17 miles with hardly any stops (including the airport, though it is a different kettle of fish).

    OK, a lot of the line is rural BUT given the congestion of the city centre and the proximity of the railway line to the motorway would it not make sense to have a massive car park & railway station (with cafe) just off the motorway near Antrim?

    That way ye can commute straight from your house, turn off the motorway, park-up and catch a train straight into the city centre without having to feel like Kirk Douglas in ‘Falling Down’?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Actually, just looked at a map;

    Would it hurt to put a station in Templepatrick, Dunadry, Monkstown and a few more in Antrim & Ballymena?
    No point in battling with traffic to drive from Muckamore to the town centre of Antrim to get the train (half the journey) but if there was another station or two then it might become viable to hop on the train to Belfast.

    And then you have the airport, Crumlin, Glenavy, Lisburn (knockmore), Lambeg….

    PLUS: If some palms were suitably greased part of the Randalstown railway could be restored and linked to the Antrim line (maybe, some short sighted planning decisions by the local planning authority methinks…)

    Any wonder there’s congestion!

  • Croiteir

    Here is another modest proposal – just recognise that the region is an economic failed entity that simply cannot exist without excessive underwriting from outside, which is also the prime cause of its economic demise. Solve that obvious weakness and the problem is on its way to resolution.

  • Bryan Magee

    Why not cycle it?

  • barnshee

    I`m afraid of a “no sale” with “the bits” left in limbo unwanted by anyone at any price

  • barnshee

    “to have a massive car park & railway station (with cafe) just off the motorway near Antrim?”

    Sadly no train but there is a big park and ride at the Dunsilly roundabout at Antrim-works well

  • barnshee

    ” just recognise that the region is an economic failed entity that simply cannot exist without excessive underwriting from outside, ”

    Remove the economic underwriting beyond its tax base and the problem will solve itself

  • barnshee

    Not temporary direct long tern direct 10 years with a referendum on a UI at the end of it

  • barnshee

    “Would it hurt to put a station in Templepatrick, Dunadry, Monkstown and a few more in Antrim & Ballymena?
    The line still runs past Templepatrick Dunadry and Doagh railway stations no trains stop now

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Really?, then would it hardly be a gargantuan task to get the train to stop there.

    Are you sure about Doagh though?

    Also, I’ve revised me Dunsilly station idea:

    look at exit 5 where the M2 meets the A57 Ballyclare Road, jst turn that field into a car park with station and you’d be laughing all the way to Europa.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Does Passenger Duty count?

  • Ian James Parsley

    Just as a matter of fact – tolls these days are electronic (see Dublin M50).

  • Ian James Parsley

    I like this idea. Worth noting, however, that under my proposals most revenue raising takes place at the back end of the reforms.

  • Ian James Parsley

    We now effectively have that, as of the passage of the Education Bill last month.

  • Ian James Parsley

    A couple of respondents have raised electability.

    The article isn’t about electability. It is about what’s right and fair during hard times. It’s about raising funds for infrastructure from those who actually use it; it’s about raising extra funds from those with wealth rather than those without; it’s about ensuring that those who are well paid contribute a little more to cover our debts during hard times than those who are less well paid. My proposals no doubt have their faults but they are one thing – they are fundamentally fair.

    However, isn’t it interesting that the voters may not be interested in that…?

  • AndyB

    Apparently that’s the exact problem and the reason why there’s no railway station at Ballymartin. Build a station there and there’ll be no room for passengers to get on at Mossley West.

  • AndyB

    On the point of diverting less of the regional rate to councils, very little of the regional rate is allocated to councils. I’m not actually sure why any of it currently goes there, but a little does go to most councils. All the councils get otherwise is their own district rate, and that’s what pays for bins, parks, and the leisure centres.

    Now the interesting point is the transferred functions. Supposing that the councils have to set a 2015 rate that fully funds the transferred functions, including car parks and planning. A little sleight of hand that we would never expect from the DUP (surely not!) would see the regional rate frozen, but the district rates increase…

  • AndyB

    And from the last 40 years, the last thing I would expect from Direct Rule is for the country to be run properly. Just cuts, cuts, more cuts, and all in the interests of the Treasury, not our interests.

    Specifically, if we get Direct Rule, expect water charges from the first opportunity; massive increases in the regional rate with no improvement in services; forced massive bus and train fare rises (on the grounds that the fares we pay are well below those in GB and Ireland, which, believe it or not, they really are… they are still too expensive, but nevertheless!) and reduced subsidy; cuts and privatisation in the NHS under the untruthful pretext that privatisation saves money.

    Mind you, equal marriage would also be introduced very quickly, as would sorting out the ban on clean gay men giving blood.

  • AndyB

    Do you think that’s because fiscal responsibility, jobs and economic growth don’t put the flag back on the City Hall? 😉

  • Ian James Parsley

    Partly, yes.

    But it’s also because people are emotional not rational; and largely selfish, not social… “Never mind food banks! What about my mortgage payments…?!”

  • Ian James Parsley

    Anywhere – literally anywhere – can succeed with the right policies.

    The Republic was even more of a failed economic entity for most of its existence. It has proven that it can be fixed (even if they subsequently unfixed it somewhat!)

  • Ian James Parsley

    Great thoughts!

  • kalista63

    Over the weekend I saw something g about Dacia cars and how they have to constantly expand to meet the growing need for cheap cars.

    See, there’s a fek’n blatantly obvious market that was going to emerge, cheap wheels. I’m sure we could all contribute to a list of the bloody obvious that will be in demand in the very near future. In defence of local politicians, they’re either incapable or unwilling to think this way in GB too.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I should probably be clear that the title of this article was not mine!

    Nevertheless I am enjoying the modestly provocative responses. If only we had more such debates…

  • AndyB

    Or in the case of congestion, “I like driving and I don’t care that I can park up for free and get a handy bus to my work” while those with no reasonable choice are left stuck in the traffic behind them.