Alliance Secures Rates Review

North Down Alliance MLA Stephen Farry who jointly sponsored a debate today in the Northern Ireland Assembly along with Brian Wilson on the current flawed rates system, has welcomed the commitment of the Finance Minister, Peter Robinson, to conduct a full review of the system, including consideration of an income-based system.

Dr Farry stated:

“The current rating system does not enjoy the confidence of the public. There is an urgent need for a full review. Alliance is keen that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that any new review considers all the possible options, including income-based systems.

“It is notable that both the Lyons and Birt Reviews into local government finance in both England and Scotland respectively both considered this option.

“Alliance believes that an income based system is the only fair system as it is fully linked to ability to pay.

“The current system carries too many anomalies and does not sufficiently take into account personal and household circumstances to be fair. Minor tinkering with the system is unlikely to address the flaws in the system.

“With the regional rate the only means for the Executive to raise funds, the current flaws within the system will only be magnified.

“It was disappointing to see many other parties dismiss a local income-based system.

“Such as system would replace either the regional rate or both the regional and district rate. Some claim that an income-based system inevitably means tax hikes. This is a huge red herring. An income-based system would simply be a different way of redistributing the tax burden in a fairer way. It is revenue neutral.

“The decision of how much to raise from the system would lie in the hands of the politicians, as is the case with the regional rate.

“Any review of the rates system would need to go hand in hand with efforts to address public expenditure. If the Assembly is to avoid passing on more and more financial burdens onto the people of Northern Ireland, it needs to promote economic growth, increase the tax base, remove inefficiencies and address the £1billion annual cost of managing a divided society.”


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