Response to Consultation on Rates (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

The consultation period allocated by the Minister, Mr Hanson, to the Rates (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 was divisive in that it was:

  • Launched on July 24th, 2006 at the height of our holiday season
  • The period was restricted to seven weeks.

By their own standards the Government was somewhat economical in framing this time span for the written consultation submission on this Order, as previous consultations during the development of the policy were allowed the full sixteen weeks, as recommended in the Cabinet Office's Code of Practice on Consultation (Criterion 1 paragraph 1.)

Paragraph 3.4 of Criterion 3 of that same code states:

“Efforts should be made to bring the consultation to the attention of all interested parties. As well as using the Internet you should consider publicising the consultation in ways most appropriate for the groups you wish to reach”

Launching this consultation at this time of year and the truncated period of consultation were deliberately picked to minimise the public’s response, as well as to assist the Minister in meeting his deadline in the House of Commons, for laying the Order before Parliament in early October 2006.

Despite the curtailment in the consultation period mentioned above, the Rating Policy Division of the Department of Finance and Personnel, reported a well above average number of written responses.

To view the Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign’s submission, as well as all other responses received at Rating Policy Division, please click here.

It should be noted that although somewhat belatedy, several of our political parties did respond before the September 15th deadline but only after a lead was given by the ordinary people who launched this protest campaign.

David Hanson, Minister for Finance and Personnel, who said on 13th September, two days before the consultation on the Rates Order closed that there would be 'no change' to the legislation.

Mr Hanson had not yet received nor read the responses from the Fair Rates Campaign and others. The Fair Rates Campaign asks what was the purpose of the consulation? We believe the consultation was a 'ticking the box' exercise for the Minister.