Stormont House: A Progressive Unionist Alternative

Progressive Unionist Party Councillor, Julie Ann Corr-Johnston sets out an alternative to the Fresh Start/Stormont House Agreement. A fuller version of this blog is available here.

There are several alternatives which would generate new jobs, stimulate the economy, and improve people’s lives however I’ve listed just three below:

1) The 2015 Wrap NI Report outlines a strategic plan over 15 years and evidences a potential 13,000 new jobs created at various skill levels across Northern Ireland and within a number of sectors, including food and drink, bio-refining and the bio economy, by moving to a circular economy. The full report is available here.

In essence, the circular economy is about moving from a system of waste to one of endless resourcefulness. Charity shops for example make use of clothes or items we no longer want or consider waste. If we were to simply throw away those items the charity shop would not exist nor would the jobs associated with it. As a society we recognise the benefits of re-using or reselling our ‘waste’. If there is money to be made and jobs created on the back of items we no longer have use for, clothes, electrical goods and shoes then the same can be said of our aluminium cans, paper, cardboard, glass and food to name but a few.

The Green Alliance report highlights the economic advantages associated with landfill diversion. It identified that between 5-10 jobs are created/supported for every thousand tonnes of material recycled, compared with 0.1 jobs for the same amount of waste sent to landfill.

Applying the above to Belfast’s waste streams would indicate that up to 520 jobs are directly or indirectly supported through the Council’s recycling initiatives as around 52,000 tonnes is presently recycled, and a further 33,000 tonnes is recovered. This has resulted in 58% of the city’s waste being diverted from landfill and instead recycled.

There are multiple examples available online that illustrate a large scale circular economy in practice. A good example of this is the Walt Disney Resort who send food waste — including grease, cooking oils and table scraps — from select restaurants in its complex to a nearby 5.4 MW anaerobic digestion facility owned and operated by Harvest Power. The organic waste is converted into renewable biogas (a combination of carbon dioxide and methane) to generate electricity, with the remaining solid material processed into fertilizer. The energy generated helps to power Central Florida, including Walt Disney Resort’s hotels and theme parks.

This practice not only eradicates the cost associated with disposing of the materials once considered ‘waste’ but delivers job creation at Harvest Power, drives down energy use and energy bills, reduces carbon emissions and assists in tackling climate change.

You Tube clip which helps to explain how it works:
2) Fuel Poverty is a chronic injustice in a civilized society and a source of misery for many of our citizens; we know that out of 750,000 housing stock approximately 294,000 are at risk of fuel poverty. Investing in energy retrofit upgrade in Northern Ireland, particularly in fuel-poor households would not only make these houses energy efficient- which after all, is the job of government – making citizens’ lives better- but will also create hundreds of sustainable jobs from low-skilled roles to management opportunities. The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) report entitled:

Policy options for Investment in Infrastructure in Northern Ireland” Jan 2013 suggests that with an energy retrofit: “The impact on unemployment could be significant, it is estimated that every £10m invested could create up to 330 jobs in Northern Ireland” NERI examines how a mass retrofitting scheme could be established in Northern Ireland and when discussing investment in retrofitting states: “the most common example of this is additional insulation.

In addition to economic benefits, a major retrofit programme is likely to bring significant social benefits, particularly in combating Fuel Poverty and the health problems associated with cold, damp housing. This source is available here:

How much would we have to spend to both improve peoples’ lives through ensuring warm homes, and generating new jobs? The cost per home for cavity wall insulation is approximately £1300. We estimate the retrofitting scheme would cost in the region of £300m, which creates 990 jobs for a period of 10 years.

£300 million is the same figure we have just agreed to spend cutting Corporation Tax, which, as I’ve discussed above, guarantees no more than increased profits for corporations. Whilst lowering corporation tax costs £300 million and guarantees no jobs, this Fuel Poverty strategy costs the same, improves everyone’s standard of living, and stimulates economic growth by job-creation.

3) “At March 2014 the social housing waiting list amounted to 39,967 households of whom 21,586 were considered to be in housing stress, including 9,649 households deemed to be statutorily homeless.

It will take 5 years to build a new home for each of those deemed statutorily homeless based on the most recent version of the Net Stock Model which points to the need for 1,200 new homes to be built each year. However, because there were several years, since 2001, where this target was not achieved, an additional 800 are provided each year to make up the shortfall of previous years. And 19 years to meet the present housing demand.

Two thousand homes per year is too few, we believe that building more new homes will make a significant social and economic contribution to Northern Ireland. As well as delivering much needed new homes, increasing our housing supply would provide significant additional benefits for everyone; jobs creation, investment in infrastructure and facilities for local communities. TUC (Trade Union Congress) argue that £1 spent on housing generates £1.40 of wider economic benefit. In a recent article published regarding the UK housing crisis Frances O’Grady their general secretary said, “Think of the opportunities presented by a massive house-building programme: thousands of decent jobs and quality apprenticeships; a much needed boost for our ailing construction industry and the chance to bolster our supply chains as well.”

These opportunities are outlined in an article published by Belfast Live earlier this year:

Conclusion

Lowering Corporation Tax is not the magic wand which many believe it to be. How many will invest the tax cut in nice holidays and better cars as opposed to the creation of new jobs? There are no sanctions, no prohibitions and most astonishingly no guarantees.

Handing taxpayers hard earned money to corporations in the vain hope that they will invest it back into our country and its people cannot be the best our leaders have to offer, can it?

As we so often see, our politicians avoid rolling up their sleeves to tackle the chronic injustices so many of our citizens are faced with: low pay, lack of employment opportunities, depleted social housing market and poor energy efficiency to name but a few. All referenced and addressed within this article with rational, viable and sensible alternatives.

In the words of Kenny Rogers “There’ll be time enough for counting, When the dealin’s done”

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  • chrisjones2

    Yet again a post that advocates improving NIs economy by spending more public money to produce diddly squat

  • murdockp

    I agree with the points made however I would counter this by stating that red tape removal and the private sector can deliver.

    charity shops however are a scourge and most should be shut down and they destroy communities and offer little social value.

    aerobic digestion is happening in dunggannon but again it a private sector initiative.

    as for housing reform planning and watch the houses be built.

    our economy is over regulated. reform and red tap cutting is what we need.

  • 23×7

    Ahh ye olde red tape excuse. That bloody public sector is always stymying the private sector.

  • murdockp

    Red tape in NI is very, very real indeed which is what the ROI is not one bit bothered about our CT reform.
    Examples include the UK’s largest property developer Land Securities publicly stating they will never building in NI again because the planning system is not fit for purpose or
    getting you car MOT’ed in the UK you have hundreds of choices, in NI there is only one service provider.
    Or the department store chain John Lewis who have a shovel ready store but cant get planning for their site of choice or
    Boal Car Parking who have to close their business as they are undertaking the wrong type of car parking in the Ikea multi Story car park or
    The Belfast City Council spending £50m on the construction of a conference venue and as it get close to opening none of our licencing laws have changed to allow bars and restaurants to open later and attract the best conferences to Belfast.
    or the building control monopolies who don’t answer the phones from one day to the next and treat the public like dirt or
    the electricity network owner who has a monopoly and a three month waiting list to undertake infrastructure work for their customers and charge a fortune for basic services or
    the land an property services rates collection who would rather shut businesses down who cannot afford rates rather than let them continue to trade and keep people in work.
    Anyone who thinks there is no red tape in NI needs to go and work overseas, in particular the likes of London and Manchester / Birmingham to see how the public sector operates, light years ahead of our lot I can tell you.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I note the “report” about cavity wall installation has been authored by a major provider of cavity wall insulation. I thought there was something up, as I had assumed that all recently built Housing Executive accommodation already had cavity wall insulation in place.

    Shouldn’t we get an independent report on the costs and benefts before we put £300m into the pockets of businessmen ?

  • whatif1984true

    Any business man could tell you that chasing volume over profit is madness. In layman’s terms reducing your price to increase sales. There are many factors involved in increasing sales and the major factor is that changing price does not address all those factors.
    Likewise decreasing Corporation tax reduces ‘profit’ from every single company paying tax. How many of those will increase in size because their company is now more profitable. The answer is that with few exceptions we have singularly failed to grow big companies over the longterm.
    Therefore reduced tax’s sole aim is to attract new BIG business. Their addition to the economy has to outweigh the losses from all the existing businesses who now also have lower taxes.
    These new businesses of course have to guarantee that they will pay taxes and not act like Starbucks/google etc and only pay what they decide they wish to pay. Of course all the other factors affecting a decision on location need to be met as well – transport/power/wage costs, education facilities, internet resources, available marketplaces etc etc.

    The original ‘any businessman’ would tell you that he wants profit and volume and so he changes his model to give a discount only to big customers (and hopefully those who pay promptly).
    YES lower taxes for big tax payers. Of course not a flat rate but a stepped reduction as several levels of profit are met.
    This could of course apply equally to all existing companies and set properly would mean no reduction in current tax take and only an increase.

    in the end any business owner will tell you that he looks after his money much better than an employee. Stands to reason it is your money coming out of your pocket.

    The misguided nonbusinessmen in Stormont will have no pain if their Corporation Tax plans are a total disaster, their salaries and pensions are safe. it is riskfree for them -BEWARE.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Very Good Article – but I comment on the points below for the PUP.
    1. ReCycling – Maybe worth looking at the Greens Policy and trying to align a party policy on the subject around their suggestions.
    http://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/green-party-promises-4bn-waste-and-recycling-boost/
    2. Fuel Poverty – I know that the Trade Unions are members of the organisation “End Fuel Poverty Coalition, not sure if it is open to political parties, but the PUP could at least declare it’s support for this organisation in any manifesto.
    http://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk
    3. Social Housing – The PUP should declare its full support for the Labour Party Housing Policies at its recent conference.
    http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2015/october/labour-party-sets-out-housing-policies-at-annual-conference/
    Hopefully the PUP can include such policies in its manifesto for forthcoming Assembly Elections in May 2016.

  • Not entirely true. In fact business business often makes a choice of volume or value and bases its model on that. Ford v Rolls Royce, Microsoft v Apple, Avon v Hermes. Same with tax. The top % pays a proportionally greater slice of total tax takings. The challenge is to get the balance correct based on your economic model/strengths. You are right though that every businessman makes decisions at risk, whereas politicians seem increasingly able to govern without a care, accountability or openness.

  • whatif1984true

    Rolls vs Ford is not correct, the two products are very different. You can only compare companies/products if they both make similar products but one sells at a high price and the other at a lower price.
    Apple make products which are cheap to produce but are better than the opposition by virtue of their originality, marketing and aesthetics. They premium price to cream off superprofits in the early days of a products life and scale it down as as demand eases. I guess one can argue about the balance of microsoft products/pricing vs Apple’s but their prices for a new OS seem to be similar.