Press Release | 27th February 2007
Fair Rates Campaign Issues Open Letter to All Assembly Candidates
The Fair Rates Campaign has written to all Assembly candidates on the rates issues outlining their six point plan and calling for a fairer rating system in Northern Ireland. The Campaign explained to prospective Assembly members that the most expensive house in Northern Ireland, according to the January 2005 valuation, is £2,500,000 while in England in the village of Windlesham, it is £70,000,000.
The Campaign explained it is unfair to compare rates in Northern Ireland with England’s highest council tax and make our highest rates the same as England’s. With Prime Minister Blair’s personal home valued at £3,500,000, his council tax on that property is £1,368, in Northern Ireland, under the new system, this would be the amount of rates paid on a home valued at £232,000.
Anne Monaghan, Chair of the Campaign, said ‘With the increase in house prices we are experiencing in Northern Ireland, by the time the next revaluation happens in 2010, how many home owners will then be glad of a cap at £300,000, which we are proposing?’
‘Some parties have said that having a cap will subsidise the better off at the cost of the rest, if the cap is set at £300,000 the rates paid on this property will be £1,800, over half the homes in NI are valued at less than £100,000, according to the 2005 valuation, and will be paying average rates of £433. This means that the £300,000 home owner is paying four times as much for the same services. It is as it should be, the better off are in fact subsidising the less well off’.
Press Release | 22nd February 2007
New ‘Revenue Neutral’ Rating System Raises £43 million Additional Capital
Press Release | 20th February 2007
Fair Rates Campaign Tells Rate-Payers Cancel Direct Debits
The Campaign is telling the 260,000 rate-payers who pay by direct debit or standing order to cancel these and pay instead by cheque or in person on a monthly basis to the Rate Collection Agency.
With only three council areas benefiting under the new system this protest action will delay the transfer of data from the old computer system used by the Rates Collection Agency to the new computer system. Rates will still be collected, however, under the old arrangements.
The Assembly has asked the government to delay introduction of the system but they have refused. Ratepayers can now delay the system through this type of direct but totally legal action.
Anne Monaghan, Chair of the Campaign, commented, ‘This is not non-payment. This is changing the method of payment to give the local ratepayer greater control over their bills and finances. Every single rate-payer should also claim under the rate relief scheme and shouldn’t be put off by the forms, which are deliberately obstructive’.
‘Our politicians have opposed this system, the people oppose it and now is the time to delay its implementation until the Assembly sits, debates and decides on this system and on the inadequate relief measures within’.
Fair Rates Campaign 6 Point Plan Based on Ability to Pay
The Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign today issued a five point plan for local parties to consider as part of the Programme for Government Committee and in their election manifestos. The proposals are based around ability to pay and campaigners believe the proposals will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
The 5 Point Plan consists of:
• A Cap at £300,000
Campaigners have also written to the local parties seeking a response to the above plan, on the content of the parties responses to St. Andrew’s in relation to the rates issue, whether or not they accept the proposals outlined in the plan and whether or not they intend to include these points in their election manifestos.
Anne Monaghan, Chairperson of the Fair Rates Campaign, said: ‘We are absolutely clear that this new rating system is not only unpopular but unfair. Let us be clear that the local parties can and should review this system once they enter government.
‘We have won concessions from the government on the principal of the cap and additional relief for pensioners. We are now seeking a comprehensive relief package based on ability to pay.
We are also conscious that the Labour government in Scotland has rejected the system being introduced in Northern Ireland. If we had a devolved assembly this system would never have been introduced’.
Press Release | 6th November 2006
Northern Ireland Political Parties and Rates Campaigners Urge Lords to ‘Kill the Bill’
All of the local Northern Ireland parties have sent letters to the Conservative and Cross-Bench leaders in the Lords asking them to vote for this fatal motion, so that this crucial decision can be taken by a future Northern Ireland Assembly.
These letters have also been forwarded to Lord Rooker so the government is left in no doubt that there is cross-party support in opposition to this legislation. The Order is a statutory instrument and therefore the Parliament Act cannot be used.
The Fair Rates Campaign has been lobbying members of the Lords over the last seven days and the Conservative Party has also laid a motion asking that the Order be remitted to a future Assembly.
‘The parties in Northern Ireland have now in writing asked for a delay in introducing the system and they have asked the Lords to support this fatal motion . If it is really revenue neutral then neither we nor our local politicians can understand David Hanson’s refusal to allow Northern Ireland people and parties to determine this system for them-selves’.
‘The most important political statement which has been made in relation to this issue is the cross-party support that this decision is made by the Northern Ireland Assembly. David Hanson has said that local politicians must get into government and take these crucial decisions. The parties are now saying they wish to take these vital decisions and Hanson carried on regardless
Press Release | 27th October 2006
The Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign has welcomed opposition from the Lords to the new rates system, which was debated in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords on Wednesday.
Speaking in the committee, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Lords criticised the system and commented if the system was revenue neutral then it should be delayed so a local assembly can look again at the whole rating issue.
Lord Glentoran a Conservative peer said the legislation was ‘deeply disturbing in many ways’ and ‘should never have been involved in the St. Andrews process’. Lords Trimble, Laird, Rogan and Baroness Harris of Richmond all raised concerns regarding the system.
The Order will now be debated on the floor of the House of Lords within the next few weeks. The Liberal Democrats have laid a fatal motion to strike the order down, while the Conservatives have laid a non-fatal motion to remit the decision-making powers to the Assembly.
Anne Monaghan, Chairperson of the Fair Rates Campaign, said ‘From across Northern Ireland to across the political spectrum there is opposition to this legislation. Now the House of Lords has added its voice in opposition to a law which disadvantages pensioners, the asset rich but cash poor, single person households and those just outside the benefit system.
‘The Minister still refuses to listen to the people and to all the parties in Northern Ireland who have asked for a delay of one year in introducing the system. If it is really revenue neutral then we cannot understand his refusal to allow Northern Ireland people and parties to determine this system for them-selves’.
Notes: See Hansard report on Lords debate, 25th October 2006 for reference.
Press Release | 26th September 2006
The Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign has called into question the Minister’s statistics on the draft rates legislation.
The Minister, David Hanson, has publicly claimed on a number of occasions that if capping were introduced into Northern Ireland only 2700 households would benefit.
The Fair Rates Campaign, using information obtained from the Valuation and Lands Agency, disputes these figures.
The Campaign announced today that in England the highest band is £320,000 and above. If this were applied to Northern Ireland 11,324 households would benefit, over four times more than what the Minister claims.
Anne Monaghan, Independent Chair of the Campaign, said today, ‘We have always queried the figures provided by the Minister. It is clear now that he is working on a higher maximum band in and around £500,000. No other part of the UK has a cap set at such a high level. If the cap currently used in England were applied in Northern Ireland over 11,000 households would benefit at the maximum level’.
‘We are now more than ever convinced that we are the guinea pigs of the UK. The Minister is quoting figures based on a system which does not exist anywhere in the UK. We reiterate that this legislation is flawed and now call into question the whole system of rating based on single capital values.’