Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

It's hard to rate Sammy over council taxes

In my previous letter (Write Back, December 5), I pointed out that the rest of the UK was enjoying a freeze in local taxation for the third year in succession, while we were still waiting on ours.

But far from being apologetic, Sammy Wilson (Write Back, December 12), pointed out that we should count ourselves lucky to be paying average rates of £780, while people in England pay £1,200. I can only say that, as an occupier of a modest semi in Belfast, I am paying £2,749-a-year - nearly four times the figure he says applies here.

Sammy has chosen his comparison shrewdly. England, whose main contributor is London, has property values much higher than the rest of the UK, while Northern Ireland - to his Government's credit - has a welter of sub-standard, low-value, derelict housing. In addition, our shrewd politicians - in yet another raid on the hard-pressed public - brought in rates on empty and derelict houses in October 2011; this also being applicable only for a part-year, further diluting the Northern Ireland average for that year. He makes a further point about rates being held to inflation levels. How many of us are enjoying inflation-proof annual rises? His point about a 20% reduction in commercial rates is, of course, welcome, but they were too high in the first place.

When are Sammy and his colleagues going to come into the real world, which the rest of us inhabit (and pay for)?

JOHN WILSON

Belfast

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