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Rates are not for official pet projects

When this year's rates demand (makes you think of an 18th century highwayman shouting 'Stand and Deliver') dropped on the doormat the other day, I thought 'How much?' A bit of checking showed that my rates in Belfast had increased by 80% in the last eight years. I wish my pension had gone up like that.

And then I read what these rates pay for. I could have sworn most of the items mentioned, health and education for example, were already paid for in general taxation - PAYE, Nat. Ins., VAT, Fuel Duty etc. Are we paying many times for the same services?

Does Government, national and local, think that if they take our money from our wallets in lots of small enough bits that we might not notice? Why can't they just be honest and upfront and come clean that what they really want is 100% of our money to play with?

Can I suggest that the authorities, again national and local, restrict themselves to the efficient provision of essential public services not available elsewhere and resist the temptation to fund their own little pet projects; that they charge for services such as Building Control at a realistic rate to only those who use them, and that they leave things like leisure facilities and tourism to sink or to attract enough footfall to swim in the big, bad commercial world.

Bob Stephens


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