Belfast Telegraph

A few positives to feel good about

Editor's Viewpoint

We have not had a lot to feel good about in Northern Ireland recently. The spectre of violence still hovers in the background like Banquo's ghost and the Stormont administration lurches from crisis to crisis, increasing cynicism about politics among the general public.

But we should not be too despondent. There are straws in the wind which give grounds for optimism. Certainly, we should not overplay their significance, but neither should we ignore their impact.

Take the nine per cent increase in house prices since the beginning of the year, according to the Office of National Statistics. It is the fastest rate of growth in the UK, but that is a misleading figure since prices here are starting from a much lower baseline after the property crash eight years ago. At that stage house prices were more than 40% above today's average of £154,000, a figure that, with hindsight, was completely unsustainable.

While rising house prices may be viewed with some alarm by first-time buyers who are finding it difficult to raise a mortgage at present, it must also be seen as a vote of confidence in the local economy. What we must guard against is unsustainable property price inflation, although the seemingly inevitable interest rate rise around the turn of next year may well provide the necessary dose of realism.

The other welcome development is the fall in the price of home heating oil, which has now reached a six-year low. Allied to the falling price of petrol and diesel, this is both good news for householders and the transport business.

Cheaper home heating oil will give the most vulnerable in society - the elderly and those on low incomes - the opportunity to stock up ahead of the winter months where they, in too many cases, have to make a choice between staying warm and being well fed. This fall in prices is not just a statistical nicety to many people, but a virtual lifeline.

The old saying that one swallow does not make a summer still rings true, yet these are feelgood factors which should be nurtured and built upon. We recognise that some of the drivers of economic recovery are beyond the control of local politicians, but they should not underestimate the impact they could have by demonstrating that they have the common good of the public - rather than slavish devotion to party politics - at their core.

Belfast Telegraph


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