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Sinn Féin attack British Government Rates Strategy

1 September, 2006

Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has attacked the inconsistency in British Government Rates strategy that burdens ratepayers in the poorest and most deprived areas paying higher rates.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Fein has been pressing for a fairer system of local government financing for some time. We have constantly sought to draw attention to the carry-over of a major anomaly in the old system into the new which actually places a heavier burden on households in the poorest and most deprived areas.

"The Valuation and Lands Agency figures demonstrate a huge inconsistency, for example householders living a house valued at £130,000 in Fermanagh would have to pay more in rates than residents of Castlereagh would pay on a similar property. The reason for this should be clear to Government. Councils raise the bulk of their income from the district element of the rates collected each year by the RCA (Rates Collection Agency). The remainder goes to Central Government.

"In poorer and more deprived areas where there has been a prolonged lack of government investment - such as Fermanagh and other areas West of the Bann - there are fewer businesses and therefore fewer paying business rates. The result is that most rates have to come from householders who are already suffering from the lack of facilities and are by definition in greater need than those in better off areas.

"In addition to this residents of deprived areas may have more children of school age, or people with disabilities or illnesses and so have a greater need for health and social services or educational resources. This is funded from the Regional element of the rates and again has to come from the householder in those areas that have been starved of government investment.

"With many of these functions returning to local government with the Review of Public Administration this will have to be paid from the local rates and will again fall disproportionately on households in areas of greater need.

"This is true everywhere and in England and Wales, for example, this is taken into account in the calculation of the block grant paid to council areas of greater social need.

"There is no adequate system here and many councils West of the Bann have for some time been seeking a change in the formula of Central Government funding to account for this. It is unacceptable that the burden of rates falls heaviest on those of us already suffering from a lack of investment, over many years, that has prevented our towns and cities growing at a pace with the more affluent areas.

"Once again the British Government is failing the poorest people in this society and it is incumbent on local politicians to get the Executive up and running to deal with issues fairly." ENDS

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