Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Smaller parties more honest on big economic issue

Here's a conundrum. The Big Four parties all say there is enough money in the budget to pay for their pet projects without water charges; but they all support calls for Westminster to give us a bit more.

Both propositions can't be true. If there is enough fat, waste, hidden resources and economies tucked away in the system to pay for water and our other needs, then David Cameron was right to cut back our budget.

If he was wrong, then why aren't parties considering water charges and other local revenue-raising measures to make up the shortfall?

Perhaps they calculate that there are no votes in raising taxes, but there is wriggle-room built into some manifestos on the issue.

Sinn Fein, for instance, talks of no separate water charges, leaving open the possibility that more could go on the rates.

Some favour a mutualised water system, which would borrow money on the markets to invest and would normally be expected to charge consumers like the mutualised company in Wales.

The DUP also has an innovative proposals for Social Impact Bonds to bring private finance into public services. It is only the three smaller parties who tackle the issue honestly. The TUV, Alliance and Greens all favour water-metering and charges to pay for investment.

These tiddlers may well be showing more honesty than their bigger rivals.

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