"Not everyone who moved here at the time was necessarily wealthy and house prices weren’t as astronomical in South Belfast as they are today.

"Now there’s a lot of vulnerable, elderly people who are in a position of living in a house with a large capital value but next to no income. It’s grossly unfair.”

















































































































To view all Press Releases please click here

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’.

See also: Fair Rates Campaign Tells Rate-Payers Cancel Direct Debits

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Belfast Telegraph Viewpoint: Rates rocket explodes in our pockets

At last the penny has dropped and householders are bracing themselves across the province for significant increases in domestic rates, as well as the new water charges. The Government's figures show that Belfast will suffer most, from an average 20% rise in rates, but, even where there is a decrease, the recent spiral in house prices will ensure that the next review will hit everyone hard.

This is the inevitable consequence of basing rates on property values, a move which has been introduced here ahead of Britain where it is too controversial for the governments in Westminster or Edinburgh. It means that people who bought their houses years ago, and live on relatively low incomes, will be forced either to sell or accept a lower standard of living, because of higher outgoings.

The Government's justification for using such a blunt instrument of taxation is that the old rates system, based on rental value, was out-dated, because of rising prices, and unfair. But, although the new system is claimed to be revenue-neutral - raising no more money - it bears unduly harshly on a wide spectrum of people, raising their rates by hundreds and even thousands of pounds a year.

Since the new water charges are also based on the same property values, many are suffering the double whammy of steeply rising rates and water payments. And as the valuations were fixed at January 2005, the recent upsurge in house prices will be reflected in the next review in 2010, sending rates bills rocketing.

The direct rule administration has been able to revise the system so drastically because it has no electorate to consider, but Assembly candidates are discovering how unpopular the rates increases are. Many voters facing increases of up to 20%, before water tax, are far more concerned about them than they are about such headline issues as policing and power-sharing. Yes, they may want to see devolution restored, but they need to know that the Assembly will defer or revise the new charges.

One of the Government's arguments is that the capital value system was approved by a former Assembly executive, when it was faced with closing the gap between rates payments here and in Britain. But when the legislation was being debated, Lord Trimble made it clear that if the review had been completed when he was First Minister "this would not have happened - period."

At this late stage, the new charges will be hard to stop. But the parties should have to declare what their future policy will be - and how the concessions in Britain, capping rates and giving relief to single occupants, can be applied here. The demand is for equity.

Fair Rates Campaign Concerns Supported by Assembly Report

The Northern Ireland Transitional Assembly’s Committee on the Programme for Government established a sub-group on the Comprehensive Spending Review and Programme for Government; Rates Charges; and Water Reform on 27 November 2006.

The Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign made a submission to this sub-group, whose recommendations were debated in the Assembly and published on the 29 January.

The findings contained in this report validate the concerns of the NIFRC, and the campaign committee are hopeful that all MLAs will be mindful of its recommendations.

The following recommendations are of particular importance to the increasing number of 'asset-rich, cash-poor' domestic rate payers of Northern Ireland:

15. The sub-group recommends that a restored Executive should give consideration to increasing the level of deduction in the capital value of a farmhouse to 50% where it is subject to an agricultural-occupancy planning restriction. (Paragraph 54)

16. The sub-group welcomes the proposals to give enhanced rate relief to pensioner households and particularly the recognition that single pensioner households face greater poverty levels than pensioner couples. The sub-group would wish to see the highest possible percentage increase in allowances within the available resources but recognises that in this instance it is a matter for negotiation between Government and the political parties. (Paragraph 58)

17. The sub-group supports the principle of transitional relief but recommends further study of the various options, including the option of extending this relief beyond three years, and their interaction with other relief schemes. (Paragraph 59)

18. The sub-group recommends that urgent consideration be given to finding a more cost effective way of providing assistance with accommodation costs for students. (Paragraph 60)

19. The sub-group recommends that the 25% discount scheme for people with disabilities with housing adaptations should be extended to cover all those in receipt of the higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance. (Paragraph 61)

20. The sub-group recommends that further consideration be given to the introduction of a single person discount of 25% and a second adult rebate in Northern Ireland on a means-tested basis. (Paragraph 62)

21. The sub-group recommends that a detailed study be undertaken into the cost and impact of introducing a cap on rates at various levels, including consideration of alternative ways of providing rates relief for householders on lower incomes who live in high value homes and face extremely high rates bills. (Paragraph 64)

22. The sub-group recommends that it should be a priority of a restored administration to work with all the relevant organisations in a concerted effort to tackle the low uptake rate of passport benefits. The sub-group recommends that any decisions on reducing the number and availability of pension advisers must be delayed pending the development of a coordinated and resourced awareness campaign designed to significantly increase take-up of passport benefits. (Paragraph 65)

23. The sub-group recommends that it should be a priority of a restored administration to undertake comprehensive monitoring of the effectiveness and take-up levels of the various rate relief measures and to carry out a comprehensive review of the implementation of the new rates scheme after one year in operation. The review should include consideration of the feasibility of linking energy efficiency or other sustainability measures to a future rates
discount scheme. (Paragraph 66)

These recommendations are located on page 5 of the 'Report on the Comprehensive Spending Review and Programme for Government; Rates Charges; and Water Reform'.

To download the report in its entirety please click here [pdf 4.5mb]

To access the report online from the Transitional Assembly website please click here


 See also Fair Rates Campaign Issue a 5 Point Plan on Rates Download Press Release

News and Views

  Scotland's First Minister says ‘no way’ to new property tax

  The Government has denied claims it is considering a flat fee based on one per cent of the value of a home, a system already introduced in Northern Ireland. Click here for full story




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