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Rates Debate – let’s not forget that people here earn less and pay more

15 May, 2007

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Fra McCann speaking during an Assembly debate on rates has reiterated Sinn Féin's preference for the scrapping of rates and payments based on people's ability to pay. He also highlighted the fact that people here earn less, pay more on fuel bills and have a higher cost of living.

Mr McCann said:

"The new rates system has been universally criticised. Its' introduction came against the wishes of the vast majority of the population - who see this as a way for government to force more money out of those who in many cases do not have the ability it to pay it.

"We were told that rates are being brought into line with payments in England; we were also informed that we have had it easy for many years and weren't paying our way.

"Yet, this does not take into consideration that people here pay higher rates for fuel, for both domestic and commercial, that food is more expensive in general and the cost of living is comparatively more expensive here in the north - and matching this to the low earnings and high unemployment paints an altogether different picture, but those in power and their advisers chose to ignore these very relevant issues.

"They chose to do that with other matters but they knew with local politicians at the helm, whilst we may not have agreement on every element of what would be required, at least the assembly would have looked at it sympathetically.

"In fact many of those responsible for its introduction here where those same people who came out strongly against the Poll tax. They have short memories.

"Sinn Fein have consistently called for a radical review of the rates system, in fact Sinn Fein's option would be to scrap rates system altogether and introduce a system of progressive direct taxation. Sinn Fein believe the whole rating system in the six counties would need a radical overhaul in the context of a complete review of Barnett."

The West Belfast MLA also made specific reference to disability adaptations; he said:

"I also want to make specific reference to the situation facing people with disabilities who are forced to make adaptations to their homes in order to enable them to live with dignity within their own homes. These are people who should have their specific circumstances taken into account when looking at rates.

"The rates system must meaningfully address disadvantage and low income. The British government's scheme as it is present form does not address these core issues. It is essential that any review has these essential criteria at the heart of the review." ENDS

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