Are you impressed with the latest Assembly moves?

Gaming in the Assembly crisis  reaches new heights ( or depths) with the DUP delivering an undisclosed ultimatum  to the secretary of state  and the Ulster Unionists implementing their own ultimatum by refusing to take part in talks on the basis of the Stormont House Agreement,  even though Mike Nesbitt’s way out of one part of the impasse  is through the same Stormont House Agreement. Meanwhile Sinn Fein postures above the fray as yet another old warrior enters the frame.

Away from the parallel universe of NI politics, economist John Simpson only partly invokes the SHA financial proposals in his Bel Tel column to plot a way out of the financial deadlock. This means,  if you need a  reminder,  the phased introduction of modest charges for those public services that everybody else in the UK pays for. But why is the highly estimable John Simpson alone in the crisis  to revive the practical proposals to end deadlock amid the orgy of  political manoeuvring?  Why are the parties being allowed to slide to the precipice unchecked by intelligent comment?  The wider public  are so inured to gaming that they share with most politicians a very low appreciation of the real public interest. The absence of accountability is as great  today as ever it was in the last century.

John Simpson extracts

In other words, Northern Ireland should implement the rules on welfare payments as are now in place for Great Britain and accept those financial transfers on the former parity framework.

The residual cost of welfare reform, with local discretion to tackle systemic effects on some disadvantaged groups, might need about £50m to £70m from the local budget

Corrective measures of tax increases or reduced expenditure would need to start with discrete steps, possibly looking for an adjustment of £100m in 2016-17 then followed by incremental increases.

Finance Minister Arlene Foster must ask the Executive to agree some unpalatable decisions.

These could include:

  1. An annual phased “inflation plus 3%” increase in the regional domestic rate to begin to narrow the existing underfunding from households for rates.

  2. A commitment to withdraw the remaining industrial de-rating arrangements partially to offset the cost of corporation tax relief to businesses.

  3. Prescription charges at a fixed rate.

  4. As a preliminary to an agreed water charging system, a fixed charge per household (levied as part of the domestic rates bill) of £100 each year.

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  • Zeno

    Prescription charges at a fixed rate.

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought I read something along the lines that it costs more to implement that than it would bring in.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Means testing would cost more to implement, a small fixed rate fee might be cheaper to implement but poor would pay more.

  • chrisjones2

    Depends what you charge. At say £15 it might be profitable if they stopped all the fraud that would follow and made most people pay. But this is a feint. SF and the Stoops wont agree

    As for “an agreed water charging system” – we already pay through the rates. Its on the bill

  • Redstar

    Water charges. Would be great watching the Shinners squirming with that one after their antics about the same tax in the 26 counties

  • chrisjones2

    …I am touched that you think they care save that it might cost THEM a few votes

  • Zeno

    Prepare for Welfare Reform, Water Rates and probably Prescription Charges under Direct Rule. Then the clowns will come back and blame those bad brits.

  • murdockp

    raise rates….wow they are already higher the rest of the uk

    how about some efficiencies first.

  • Zig70

    If we save the cost of running Stormont and have something like a rotating executive council to meet and discuss the 10 issues a week, can we then offset the welfare bill?

  • Thomas Girvan

    What about introducing a £50 charge to see a doctor?
    That is about the same as applies in the Republic of Ireland
    The money raised could then be spent on the DLA claimants who are still suffering from the effects of the troubles.

  • aquifer

    Babies throwing rattles out of prams can be amusing, but not impressive.

  • Spike

    Super…….so all the political posturing, faux indignations and hand wringing is really all about the Unionist parties getting to charge us working people more money through taxes, water charges and the biggest rip off of them all – rates……..Doing all this and then blaming SF/SDLP when its passed?? ‘Bring in the clowns!’

  • Redstar

    Spike with all due respect as a Republican I am a lot more critical of SFs involvement in this whole charade.

    They are the ones whos career politicos are hanging on for dear life prolonging tne existence of this total farce at Stormont.

    It was NEVER going to work. Its a total failure and their desperation to prolong the existence of this gravy train parish council rubber stamping British rule speaks volumes about how far they have sold out

  • Spike

    You are indeed correct, Stormont is a farce but surely we all knew it was going to take time to get it right and knew what we were getting into. Its like a kids playground up there. Both sides were supposed to compromise and that was why it could have worked if both sides had kept to that. Now as one feels threatened, it reverts to type. Maybe it was an experiment that has failed but I don’t want to hear hollow political statements being made when at the heart of it all its just about money. Cant be a coincidence that Stormont was plodding along before the Tory budget cuts came up.

  • Redstar

    But it was never going to work.

    This place doesn’t work.

    It was described regularly by the Shinners – before they decided to opt for accepting and administering British rule in return for a modicum of equality and some very cosey political careers- as a failed state . It’s still a failed state today

  • Spike

    As I see it, and of course its only my opinion, you are right the failed state will never work unless unionists convince nationalists to be content and happy within the Union OR the nationalists convince the unionists that at united Ireland works best. I don’t think total equality has been achieved but its much closer than 1998, and the place feels more normal. At the moment they are poles apart with perhaps (due solely to the money pumped into the north) nationalists are sitting more quietly within the union as they now have something to lose (mortgages, businesses etc etc) which they didn’t have before. I still don’t believe they ‘enjoy’ being part of the union but merely tolerate it as change brings uncertainty and their first instinct will always be that they are Irish and not British. Presently I don’t see many unionists being convinced a united Ireland is the way to go. In a religious sense the catholic church now has a back seat so that chestnut cannot be used and Fine Gael appear to be ‘closest unionists’. Until republicans can convince unionists (most likely with huge investment from the Irish government) that a UI is preferable to staying in the union, we will be in perpetual flux. I’m not sure I want to contemplate what Plan C is.

  • GEF

    All those Republican voters from W Belfast would just refuse to pay he water rates with the support of the bold Gerry and SF.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Nothing to do with the votes, this is simply administration cost – savings cost-benefit analysis. Prescription charges would have the same effect as a VAT increase.

  • gendjinn

    It’s not supposed to, it’s jut a half-way house/band aid to keep the locals peaceful until re-unification.