Friday, 26 November 2010

Relax – it’s only tax after all

THERE’S been much talk about taxes this week that is just about to pass into last week. Much talk has been over the tax implications of the bail-out of the Republic of Ireland and the tax and cut budget.

Equally, Norn Iron has had tax on its political mind. First Minister Peter Robinson has said that he eagerly awaits the HM Treasury paper on rebalancing the local economy as he urged a reduction in corporation tax “up here”.

Before the mirth, here are the facts, as we selectively choose them much in the way that a management consultant may, or may not select such facts to suit their client’s needs.

First off, the rate of corporation tax in the UK (which, despite protestations from some, Norn Iron is currently part of) is set at 28%. Second, the rate of corporation tax in the Republic of Ireland is 12.5%. Thirdly, large companies, and even small ones employ accountants. Figure the relationship out for yourself.

The next fact is that Foreign Direct Investment – that Golden Goose Government so eagerly prostrates itself before – is dependent on more than the tax regime. After all it is also down to what Invest Norn Iron can con, sorry can do, to convince investors to make their way to our fair shores, laden with promises of jobs and hands out for handouts.

So why all the fuss about Corporation Tax? Said allegedly high UK rate has not as yet deterred the financial world building modern towers of Babel in London. If you were to believe bankers, it is only the threat of curbing bonuses that may threaten London’s pre-eminence in financial shenanigans.

We think there is a wee sneaky voice in most politicians advocating lower corporation tax in Norn Iron that occasionally whispers in the darkened night, when conscience creeps towards realisation that the wee voice is uttering just two words: “gesture politics”.

Why oh why did we choose this career path!

THERE comes a time in one’s life when one looks back over the successes and failures of one’s career and wonders whether it has all been worth it.

No, we’re not talking about donning a hair shirt, seeking spiritual enlightenment or devoting vast amounts of time to green gardening. We’re talking about why oh why we didn’t pursue a career in the law profession!

After all most solicitors with a few years under the expanding belts are worth a few proverbial quid. But then there is a cash earner on an entirely different level - the barrister!

Maybe, just maybe, we could have thrust aside scruples, pretended to read more than necessary, and become a barrister. Think of the benefits. The government pays you money, and loads of it.

No, we’re not talking about public sector money, we’re talking about cold hard cash for ‘LEGAL AID’! Sorry, but that required capital letters. After it emerged that in the past two years one barrister coined in £2m plus, four earned £1.5m plus, six earned £1m plus and 22 earned £500k plus from working on LEGAL AID cases. And they get to wear black capes and natty wigs too! Even Batman didn’t get the cool wig!

To recap – a group of people get paid a lot of money by taxpayers. And get to wear wigs, and get to earn money ‘freelancing’ in legal waffling (sometimes called giving an opinion...hey we’ve got opinions too!).

Of course, they’ve done nothing “wrong” or illegal in getting paid these huge, wheelbarrow sized wads of money. After all, it is the Legal Services Commission that sets the money that said barristers get for LEGAL AID cases. Oh, hold on a moment, it is the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission. Which is different to the Legal Services Commission in England and Wales...

The Legal Services Commission seems, on the face of it, to pay barristers, QCs and other assorted wig wearing types a wee bit less than its Norn Iron counterpart. We could be wrong, of course, but goddammit this ain’t no court of law! Plus, after googling to try and discover who was a lawyer on the board of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission board and who wasn’t, and been denied access when we clicked on the ‘Members’ tag because we weren’t members, we gave up presenting any opinion before the court of public opinion...

But on a serious note, who let matters get to such a state where barristers coined in £60m in two years on legal aid cases? Surely it was the Government. Yes, and it wasn’t the Assembly. They only got to have a say in it recently and Mr Ford as Minister For Justice is putting a cap on all that and much more...or so he says.
So, has the heyday of bewigged barristers (when were they making hay while the country went to hell in a hand basket) now passed? Somehow we doubt it. After all for all the learned gentlemen and gentleladies of the law there only remains one phrase that needs to be translated into Latin: “There’s no justice, there’s just us!”.

On that note we are away to convince all children we know to become highly paid doctors or better still barristers...after all barristers get to wear wigs!

That’s a bit rich...

WE have been missing Caitriona Ruane! With all the talk of the economy and the doomed nature of Norn Iron plc there has hardly been a chance to mention the Minister for Education, and that seems a little unfair.

To redress the balance here’s a wee snippet. Your department pays for a new school wing. You are invited to open said school wing. Then you tell them they’ve got to mend their damned post-primary selection ways.

What? C’mon that seems a bit rich. We know that as Minister for “Every School a Good School” Education you could at least lay off what is patently a good school (St Dominic’s Girls Grammar, Belfast).

Ahh Caitriona we’ve missed your pithy rejoinders to all who challenge your world view. Although we do wonder whether we will see the school whose new wing you opened fall at your devastating logic and become all ability? Err, no, they had hundreds sit the entrance test to grab a place at this good school.

In through the out door

THE BBC has recently written an extensive article on the use of the word ‘progressive’ in the world of politics, citing old world progressive rockers ‘Yes’ as a means of introducing the article.

We have been wondering whether the ultimate blues, folk, rock, metal progressive act Led Zeppelin have had their album ‘In Through The Out Door’ playing in the Parsley household.

Ian Parsley announced last week that he has parted ways with Conservative Party in Northern Ireland. That comes about 18 months after he parted ways with the Alliance Party. That’s the Alliance Party that his partner Paula Bradshaw joined after quitting the Ulster Unionist Party, which was in a working arrangement with the Conservatives in the UCUNF project.

Mr Parsley eloquently outlined his position as had his partner in previous weeks.
Surely it is progressive that our politicians have such a progressive attitude to party membership that they can up political sticks on a regular basis.

Oh Owen, we love it when you talk tough!

SECRETARY of State, Owen Paterson has been talking tough. As the Peter and Martin air miles clock up again flying to London with begging bowl held out to HM Treasury, Owen has been saying where said begging bowl can be thrust!

Speaking on Thursday, he said a settlement was a settlement not the opening gambit in a negotiation.

Keen to point out that Norn Iron had already gotten a good deal and that Scotland and Wales had already set their Budgets, Mr Paterson called for an urgent agreement so as work can get underway on the NI Budget.

Mr Paterson may have visited this part of the UK/part of the island of Ireland/etc many, many times but he seems to have missed that old Belfast witticism that could be applied to any member of the NI Executive: “Sure, yer man would start a row in an empty house!” And against such a backdrop there ain’t much hope of agreement within the same party let alone across the varied political affiliations in the Executive. Much easier to extend the begging paw...

Next week: the First Minister and deputy First Minister guest write for the Big Issue, and flog copies across London.