Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Corporation tax – what will they do?

Tax by definition

Owen Paterson is saying again today that the Assembly should take up tax varying powers and settle discussion over Corporation Tax themselves.

Mr Paterson said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.”

We are now a long way from the days of Varney (I & II) – the government is clearly saying that it wants to take this further.

The pay off for the government is that they claw back £300million from the block grant, so this is understandably attractive for them. And in addition, Ireland’s next Taioseach told the Alliance Party conference on Saturday that he is in favour of all-island tax harmonisation.

As with all things of substance in Northern Ireland, little can happen without approval from external powers – so the signs are good. Northern Ireland’s political parties could get what they wished for. (And if the UCUNF project produced nothing else then it did secure a corporation tax commitment from the Tories which Paterson is now progressing.)

Paterson has now put it up to local parties to demonstrate their enthusiasm. In fact, they did so earlier this month. As the squabbling continues over the draft Budget, could this policy have the potential to bring the parties together?

(Sammy Wilson will need to be placated though. He hasn’t been convinced of low corporation tax argument for quite some time.)

In the corporation tax issue we now have a signal policy that can demonstrate to the public at large that local reps have the capacity to agree and to deliver. What will they do?

A next step could be for Jim Nicholson, Diane Dodds and Bairbre de Brun to publicly declare their willingness to push the case in Brussels. What will they do?


Filed under: Conservatives, economy,

UUP won’t back NI budget

Only time to post the news item:

The Ulster Unionist Party has confirmed it won’t back the draft budget for Northern Ireland, which was unveiled in December and outlined £4bn in spending cuts.

“Due to the high level of unknown outcomes based on limited information and aspirational claims, the Ulster Unionist Party is unable to endorse the draft Budget proposal,” a spokesman said.

The decision has been condemned as “gross hypocrisy” by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

“I wish we had more money but the reality is that the UUP’s friends in the Tories have slashed our budget,” he said.

This is an opposition stance. It seems the UUP has chosen the battlefield, but do they have a battle plan? How far will sound management and credibility on finances determine the outcome of the election?

Filed under: DUP, economy, UUP

UUP response to CSR…

I’d be interested in thoughts responding to this document. I’m still flicking through it but a couple of others have said it’s a reasonable attempt to tackle the subject. What the consensus here?

In general, there are few enough tools to generate revenue in Northern Ireland. One of these is charging for water – and my brief reading of the UUP document reveals some creative ambiguity.

“We therefore call upon the Minister for Regional Development to lay out the facts and options open to theNorthern Ireland Executive with regards to water charges – focusing on the potential increase in cost to the average household in Northern Ireland if they were to be introduced.”

Preparing for the inevitable? As far as I can tell only the Alliance Party has come out in favour of water charges. Should Unionist parties here do the responsible thing and take this most unpopular but perhaps most necessary of decisions? Is it feasible for the Executive to introduce water charges?


Filed under: economy,

Devolution: Learn How to Lead…

Guest blogger St Etienne considers that an end to what he describes as ‘the immature and irresponsible behaviour’ of devolved politicians is the one cut that could command popular public support in the post-CSR period…

Reproduced from HM Treasury flickrstream

Both the SNP and Labour have huge opportunities to tell a story not just about standing up to London and for Scotland, but taking national leadership, and telling a narrative which is about the kind of public services we want. And central to this is challenging trade unions to be constructive, proactive and imaginative in a way they haven’t been about work, jobs and organisation since the heyday of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders nearly forty years ago. Whoever can dare to move out of a bunker mentality could position themselves well for years to come, long after recession and ‘cuts’ have become part of our national folklore like the 1980s and the poll tax.

As Scottish commentator Gerry Hassan broke ranks last month to call on their regional government to display a sense of leadership in the ensuing government cutbacks, on our own Northern Irish politicians should display a similar sense of leadership.

As it stands however the regional fiefdoms are awash with non-revenue raising politicos telling us how the Westminster government is penalising our poor souls with unnecessary cutbacks, pertinently without giving any form of solution to the deep rooted issues themselves.

It’s easy to glibly shout ‘NO CUTS’ to your budget when all you do is sign off on where the money goes without thought for where it is coming from i.e. we the taxpayers. If the dire straits exhibited by Greece earlier this year weren’t reason enough to mobilise the forces of austerity, you’d think the latest in a series of economic beatings our neighbours down south have endured since would have concentrated minds on the threat lurking just under the surface.

Not so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: business, Coalition Government, devolution, economy, guest blogger, , ,

Danny Alexander’s day in the trenches…

This video has just been uploaded to the HM Treasury youtube account. It tracks Danny Alexander across the best part of 12 hours during the CSR announcements. He starts off perky enough but the realisation that a Paxo interview lies in wait starts to dawn on him at about 3mins 50secs. It’s an alternate view to CSR day which I found a little more interesting.

I’ve also uploaded the full CSR doc into the widget.


Filed under: business, Coalition Government, Conservatives, economy, finances, liberals, , ,

TUV’s turn to publish economic proposals…

By thefreshthinking

The TUV are the latest party to publish proposals on how to cut spending, their effort published by Economics Spokesman David Vance certainly kicks the pants off the UUP’s effort.

The proposals mostly either don’t make sense or look a bit familiar though….

1.  Expensive North-South Bodies costing £100m per annum must go. This will yield Half a Billion Pounds in savings over the next five years, a massive contribution.

Getting rid of them won’t save all their costs, in a lot of cases it would mean that seperate bodies would have to be set up in both juristictions to carry out their functions.  Certainly there are potential savings though, so it’s a fair suggestion on Vance’s part, nothing like £100m though.

2.       Northern Ireland’s Quangos cannot be afforded any longer and it is time that they too were thrown on the financial bonfire. This will save further millions, as will curbing squander on overuse of consultants.

The DUP having been moving to reduce the number of quangos for some time.  Sinn Fein thought of getting rid of quangos last week.

The curbing of the use of consultants is already underway.

3.       TUV would seek to provide a shield to people in low paid jobs by insisting that a pay ceiling of £100,000 must be accepted by Management before any jobs cuts are even considered.

Is this in the private sector?  If so how is the state going to intervene in the activities of private companies?  It’s certainly not within the remit of the Assembly to implement such a policy.  If it is the private sector it’s a bit rich Jim criticising SF for being Marxists earlier this week.

If this is the public sector Sinn Fein proposed something similar last week.  They were in favour of a pay freeze for civil servants paying the top rate of income tax.

4.       All abuse of Welfare, including DLA, needs to be scrutinised as a priority and offenders weeded out.

Re-assessing those on DLA is a coalition government policy

5.       Bloated costs of Government here need to end. Cutting 108 MLA’s down to 60, reducing their expenses and their generous allowances would also make a meaningful contribution.

Robinson says he wants to reduce it to 75 MLA’s, so the TUV thinks of a different number?  60 MLA’s works out at 4 MLA’s per constituency over 15 constituencies, Robinson’s proposing 5 per constituency over 15 constituencies.

Filed under: business, Coalition Government, economy, finances, TUV, ,

Clinton urges NI not to ‘despair’ over government cuts…

Reproduced from US Department for State flickrstream

By bobballs

Below is a quote from the speech Hillary Clinton gave in Washington last night. Here she urges ‘no discouragement or despair” about government announcements relating to NI.

And I know further that Northern Ireland is very dependent on government expenditures from Westminster. And I hope that whatever happens with the announcements that have to come from the government of Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg that there’s no discouragement or no despair about whatever the outcome might be, but instead, a renewal of commitment.

That stuck out to my eye as slight admonition to the government insofar as the US feels that they likely result of their economic initiatives is despair. Is the CSR going to be that bad?

But here’s the big sell from Hillary on Northern Ireland (replete with decent joke):

And through conferences like these and the conversations and collaborations that they lead to, people are understanding the economic potential of Northern Ireland. It has a prime location; two world-class research institutions; an educated, competitive workforce; a superior telecommunications infrastructure; a supportive policy environment – and some might even say that the population speaks English – sort of. (Laughter.) All key ingredients for the rise of new businesses as people are expanding their global reach.

I’ve uploaded the full speech onto the and vodpod widgets as well.

Filed under: economy, , , ,

You heard it here first… sadly

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=economy&iid=292357″ src=”″ width=”500″ height=”303″ /]

By bobballs

The UUP has produced its response to the economic crisis.

I’m afraid its appalling. Nevertheless, it may have achieved what it was designed to do – gain a headline in The News Letter.

Its four key demands on the economy are:

  1. The coalition Government must produce its economic paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy immediately. This must include specific proposals on Corporation Tax and Enterprise Zones.
  2. The Executive must review its economic development spending to ensure that areas which give the highest economic return are developed. For example the creative industries and tourism.
  3. The Executive must continue to prioritise upskilling, research and development and strategic capital investment to ensure mid and long-term economic growth.
  4. The Executive should introduce an Emerging Markets Strategy to ensure that Northern Ireland companies have the correct links to and networks in emerging economies such as India, China, Brazil and Russia.

Demand 1 reprises the UCUNF manifesto. Demand 2 urges the Executive to invest in wealth creating industries. Well, they’ve spotted that. And has the UUP heard about the Matrix Panel? Demand 3 demands something that’s happening already. Demand 4 is a call for the creation of Invest NI.

This is a poor document. The Sinn Fein paper was a poor document. This is the economic wisdom that’s supposedly driving forward our economic recovery.

McNarry has a history of going on ill-advised solo runs over the economy. As in August last year, this should never have seen the light of day. Why did Tom Elliott allow his name to be associated with this?

Filed under: economy, finances, UUP, ,

An opportunity to reinvent government

The below has been reposted from The Dissenter. This offers a really useful insight into Northern Ireland’s ‘Soviet style’ economy…

The posturing, positioning and indignant defiance over impending reduction in government expenditure is rife. But it is not just David Cameron who thinks Northern Ireland has a command economy that matches anything once boasted by the Soviet bloc.

In the rent-seeking economy of Northern Ireland, it is deemed politic to blame others for the withdrawal of funding across the economy.  It is also an indictment of both the poverty of aspiration and lack of imagination among the political class.

Much of  Northern Ireland government spending is decided in Whitehall, for example social security spend, or Europe, the bulk of DARD’s money pot. Much of the discussion will be placed on efficiency of Departmental administration of those funds.  The range and scope of much of health expenditure is also directed from Whitehall, though there is a great deal of scope to review how that money is managed and spent.  Similarly, education could be reviewed in the context of building and deepening academic excellence at all levels rather than political polemic. More importantly, as the political class seems increasing remote for the electorate, perhaps it is time to think how government could be devolved back to the individual. Northern Ireland government requires a total rethink.

The thinking has to start somewhere. thedissenter asked Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute for some basic pointers our politicians might take on board when considering ‘cuts’ in a wider dimension. Five questions in almost as many minutes. Eamonn is keynote speaker at the Agenda NI seminar Rethinking Government on 26th October at the Grosvenor House Conference Centre, Belfast. It will be interesting to hear how the politicians, social sector and business community respond to his thinking.

It is not time to cut government in Northern Ireland: it is time to take the opportunity to reinvent government in Northern Ireland.

Eamonn Bulter is Director and co-founder of Britain’s leading free-market policy think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, and a leading author and broadcaster on economics and social issues. Westminster insiders look forward each week to his wry online commentary on politics and politicians.

via An opportunity to reinvent government. « The Dissenter.

Filed under: academic, business, economy,

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