Steve Aiken urges caution over any new powers for MLAs to raise tax revenue

The UUP is urging the NI Executive to think twice about taking on additional tax raising powers while struggling to properly manage its current budget.

By Mark Rainey
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 3:30 pm
UUP MLA Steve Aiken
UUP MLA Steve Aiken

Ulster Unionist finance spokesperson Steve Aiken was commenting after a commission suggested Stormont should consider further revenue-raising powers such as income tax and excise duties on alcohol, tobacco and petrol.

In its interim report, the independent Fiscal Commission for NI rules out full fiscal autonomy for the region, given it receives more money from Treasury than the tax take generated in the region.

However, the commission said there is a case to consider the additional devolution of some tax-setting powers.

As well as income tax and excise duties, the report highlights stamp duty and air passenger duty as other areas where Stormont could take control. The only revenue-raising power currently used by the Executive is regional rates bills for householders and businesses.

While the administration secured the ability to set its own corporation tax rate in 2015, it has never used it to deviate from the UK-wide levy on business profits.

Mr Aiken welcomed the report, saying it is “beyond past time that a critical and independent view was taken about how NI PLC conducts its business”.

He said: “It is beyond doubt that there are considerable shortcomings in how we manage our budget, both at the political level and within the civil service.”

Mr Aiken said the report reflected poor performance, and added: “Indeed the comments from the UK Chief Secretary of the Treasury reported... that ‘the Executive has not yet been able to demonstrate that its finances are on a sustainable footing,’ underline just how far we as an Executive and a devolved administration – after well over a decade – need to travel if we are to act as a responsible and above all, accountable administration.

“These interim reports... show that there is much work to do before we should even be considering taking on additional tax raising or adjusting powers.”