The one tax in the ‘control’ of local parties is rates. The DUP has put strong emphasis on the significance of freezing the regional rate and all parties have worked to hold back water charges. However, there is the matter of the district rate. At the moment discussions are beginning within councils about next year’s rate and the rumours are of above inflation rises (possibly multiple times inflation are doing the rounds) The issue of council debt has gained some prominence and NILGA wants assistance to avoid cuts, arguing central government is the author of many of local government’s financial misfortunes. So should the Execuitve act? The scope for a bail-out seems limited but should one even be attempted? With the power sought is it not time to exercise the responsibilties that come with it? Should parties exert authroity over local councillors to freeze the domestic rate or at least keep it below inflation? Should capping of the district rate be considered? Will the credit crunch mean ratepayers prioritise rates bills over services? The DUP especially needs to be proactive to ensure one of the ‘gains’ of devolution is not wiped out by problems with local government finances.
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