Cost of deadlock could translate into a major hike in Northern Ireland’s household rates

It falls to UUP finance spokesperson Steve Aiken to join up the dots some of his political rivals would seemingly prefer not to talk about. As Gareth McKeown reports in today’s Irish News:

“Whilst I note the Secretary of State has said he is minded to bring forward legislation to set a regional rate, which would at least provide the finances to enable local councils to carry out their functions, we should be in no doubt that this will represent a significant hike in local household rates,” he said.

“Sinn Féin and the DUP had the opportunity to prepare a budget last December yet they refused. The reality of what happens when parties are elected who neither know or care how to properly administer public finances is unfortunately once again about to become clear.”

He also notes:

Green Party leader Stephen Agnew said anyone who supports devolution should be “appalled” at the thought of the Westminster government setting rates for Northern Ireland.

“The intervention by the Secretary of State should focus the minds of all political parties on the need to get devolution up and running, as the setting of rates could be the first in a long line of unpopular Tory decisions enforced on the people of Northern Ireland.”

Former SoS Owen Paterson (oh, and ‘tube’  is a word I thought I’d never hear a serious politician say publicly) has muttered darkly about threatening MLA salaries.

But as with George Osborne’s double jobbing as editor of the Evening Standard: if you stop paying politicians, someone else will. Threatening them with facing voters with the direct consequences of their actions (or inactions), is a different matter.

Our lot haven’t had a lot of that. As I argued before Christmas, aversion to accountability is where this crisis starts and finishes. Gareth concludes:

Land and Property Services confirmed yesterday that rate bills for the financial year 2017/2018 will be late due to a delay in the setting of the regional rate. The district rate has already been set by local councils.

Under normal circumstances LPS would send out rate bills at the end of this week, but instead officials will send out a letter to each of the roughly 560,000 households in the north with advice and further information for ratepayers.

LPS is putting plans in place to allow bills to issue in May, giving ratepayers the choice of making payment by the usual 10 instalments and avail of early payment discount as appropriate.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty