Foyle 2010: How much of our money would you take and how would you spend it?

AHEAD of tomorrow's general election the Sentinel asked our local candidates if the UK budget was managed fairly and how they would alter the current tax take and distribution had they any say in the matter.

The Sentinel asked each candidate in Foyle if Budget 2010 - set by Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling - was fair and how they would change it were they in charge. According to the Treasury the UK budget deficit currently stands at around 163billion.

The Treasury reckons it has to pay for 704billion worth of Debt Interest, Public Order and Safety, Housing and Environment, Industry, Agriculture and Employment, Defence, Education, Transport, Health and Social Protection and Personal Social Services.

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But money raised through Government tax receipts from Council Tax, Business Rates, VAT, Corporation Tax, Income Tax, Excise Duties, National Insurance, Capital Taxes, Stamp Duties, Vehicle Excise Duties, and other sources for 2010-11 is projected at just 541billion.

Equally the EU Commission and the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England have suggested there may be 25 billion additional budget cuts in the UK after the General Election.

Because some of the taxes mention above do not apply in Northern Ireland or differ in the rates that are applied across various income grades the Sentinel asked the election hopefuls to focus on the fixed tax rates - as current - that bring in the vast majority of revenue.

For the record the tax rates in question for 2010-11 are Capital Gains (18 per cent); Corporation Tax (main 28 per cent) (small firms 21 per cent); Income Tax rates (basic 20 per cent) (higher (37,401-150,000] 40 per cent) (additional (over 150,000] 50 per cent); Inheritance Tax (ceiling of 325,000); National Insurance (basic employee rate (over 110] 11 per cent); VAT (17.5 per cent).

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So, do you want to tax the wealthy by lowering the inheritance tax ceiling and raising the highest income tax rate? Or do you want to hit the poorest people in society with a hike in VAT or hammer workers and businesses with NIC increases?

Perhaps you want to reduce tax rates and cut down on government expenditure, close a few unnecessary police stations, schools and hospitals, withdraw from Afghanistan and cut farmers subsidies? Over to you folks. How would you manage the budget?

DUP: Maurice Devenney

"The DUP believes we need low interest rates and must reign back public spending and invest more wisely. Spending reductions must be pursued rather than seeking to increase taxes. We oppose national insurance rises.

"Corporation tax should be reduced as far as is achievable in the current circumstances. Northern Ireland suffers from having a land border with another EU state and a step change is needed in the province's economy.

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"We put forward the proposal some time ago to raise the threshold at which both income tax and National Insurance Contributions begin to be paid to 10,000 per annum.

"This would greatly assist the lower paid but in addition would also help combat the 'black economy' ensuring that small business owners had a reduced level of paperwork for part time staff or those earning less than 10,000.

"The rationale for a temporary 50 per cent tax rate for higher earners is

there in these challenging economic times, but thereafter the DUP advocates progressing towards a flatter tax system which would release tens of billions of pounds from administrative savings and abolishing minor reliefs.

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"We believe the threshold for inheritance tax should be raised to at least 1 million and reviewed in five years.

* sue for lower interest rates

* reduce spending

* reduce corporation tax

* no national insurance rises

* raise income tax and NIC threshold to 10,000

* 50 per cent higher income tax rate should be temporary

* raise inheritance threshold to 1m

Ulster Conservatives and Unionists: David Harding

"That I may be personally responsible for setting tax rates is a very interesting concept however the chances are vanishingly remote. I am happy to make the following comments.

"1. I am the only candidate in Foyle who could be part of the next Westminster Government.

"2. The only relevant Budget of 2010 will be the one 50 days after the election when the incoming Chancellor will be fully informed as to the extent of the fiscal ineptitude of the Labour Chancellor. This will address the structual budget deficit over the lifetime of the Parliament.

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"3. Individual rates of taxation must be considered as part of an all encompassing review and simplification of taxation.

"4. The headline rate of Corporation Tax would be cut to 25p or lower and the small companies rate to 20p

"5. The proposal to increase NI by 1% in 2011 will be reversed.

"6. The highest rate of tax 50% should not be regarded as permanent but until the economy is corrected it would be unfair to lower paid workers to remove it.

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"7. I would be committed to reducing income tax rates as a priority but only when the budget deficit has been addressed.

"8. It would be foolish to make any comment on the VAT rate until the full extent of the current financial situation is clear.

"The thrust of the Conservative and Unionist Fiscal Policy is to deal with the deficit more quickly. We are in favour of enterprise and Job creation and will cut Corporation Tax rates generally but also bring forward a government paper to look at the mechanisms for a different corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland, further enhancing the competitiveness of our local economy.

"Conservatives and Unionists will look at specific measures to turn Northen Ireland into an economic Enterprise Zone.

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"Wasteful Government spending must be cut. We will protect health spending in real terms and honour international aid commitments but there must be cuts including: One year public Pay freeze (not affecting the million lowest paid workers)

"Bringing forward the date at which state pension age starts to rise to 66 (2016 for men, 2020 for women).

"Stop tax credits for families with income over 50,000

"Child Trust Funds only for poorest third of families and disabled children

"Cap public sector pensions over 50,000

"Cut Ministers salary by 5% with 5 year pay freeze

"Reduce number of MP's by 10%

"As a representative of Northern Ireland in Government I would fight to retain the real value of the Block Grant given the disproportionate effect any reduction would have on the economy of Northern Ireland.

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"A Conservative and Unionist Government will be efficient and will lead to a reduction in taxation in the long term."

* review tax rates

* cut corporation tax

* reverse National Insurance increase

* 50% income tax band subject to change

* reduce income tax when deficit is addressed

* bring forward date at which pension age rises to 66

* cap public pensions at 50,000

* reduce Ministers' salaries by 5%

* reduce no. of MPs by 10%

Alliance: Keith McGrellis

"Alliance has consistently campaigned for a lowering of the corporation tax rate for Northern Ireland to enable us to compete more effectively on the global scale to gain inward investment.

"The national insurance increase could have a negative impact on small businesses and that causes some real concern.

"I would also like to see higher earners taxed more strongly because our public services need the extra money and higher earners are in a far better position to provide tax revenue than those on the lowest incomes at this difficult time."

* lower corporation tax

* oppose national insurance increase

* tax higher earners

SDLP: Mark Durkan

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"I think it is going to involve a bit of both (efficiencies and tax increases] but it should really only be targeted tax rises where they are going to help.

"Lets be clear about this, there is an awful lot of public money that is wasted. The British government is engaged in all sorts of vanity projects and prestige projects - replacing Trident, the costly Eurofighter etc. - big nuclear warships that aren't needed in the context of the modern world.

"There is also the huge amount of money that has been wasted to date - and with more planned - in relation to the NHS database across the water, huge costs, and so that money can be pulled back and saved from public expenditure.

"Here in Northern Ireland we have shown how departments could save money even within our own budgets and then target that into real support for the economy and into other areas that are under pressure. So that can be done.

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"We can also save money by making sure that more of the public investment in Northern Ireland is synergised through economies of scale with the Republic of Ireland, which is co-planned, co-commissioned and co-delivered.

"There are huge efficiency gains for us all there. And that means that we don't just save on that money, we can re-direct that money where it can go to other good productive use in supporting frontline services that are otherwise under pressure.

"In the Assembly, we in the SDLP opposed the current Budget because we said that the efficiency savings would lead to cuts in frontline services. The other parties all said 'No they wouldn't' and now we are suffering from those cuts.

National Insurance contributions

"If it is the only way of raising money yes, but I don't believe that it does have to be the only way - there are other levies that can be looked at as well.

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"Along with other MPs I have reflected this in motions at Westminster. If it is the only way of making sure that money is there which will go into budgets to protect frontline services at this time then I would support it as a temporary measure.

"To increase the cost of employment for both employers and employees is a difficulty. There also have to be ways of supporting businesses.

"Ultimately, there are businesses that can afford this planned increase in National Insurance contributions, however, there are others that cannot.

"What we have to do is make sure that we target support to those businesses for whom it will be a particular burden.

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"If we are trying to encourage the Green New Deal - that is, make sure that there are many more jobs created in innovative, renewable energy and eco-friendly products - then we need to make sure that those businesses find it easier and have more support to start up, not least in engaging people in employment and training.

"We need to make sure that there is support there and make sure there aren't adverse effects in relation to the increase in National Insurance contributions.

"But what the Tories are at with this campaign is simply to try to scare people and distract them from the fact that their own plans will actually see public expenditure filleted in ways that will lead to losses of frontline services in both health and education."

* scrap Trident

* scrap Eurofighter

* scrap costly NHS databases

* cross border efficiencies

* temporary National Insurance increase to protect front line services

* Green New Deal

Sinn Fin: Martina Anderson

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"Sinn Fin's approach to the management of the economy is underpinned by our commitment to ensure the economy is working for people.

"To manage an economy successfully, the state must be able to raise, in a fair and equitable manner, the revenue required to provide quality public services; strong social protections; and the investment in infrastructure and economic development necessary to achieve full employment. In Ireland, all of this can best be achieved on an all-island basis.

"Capital Gains Tax - We are seeking its harmonisation on an all-Ireland basis and would examine the introduction of a banded system.

"Corporation Tax - We strongly advocate that this tax should be harmonised on an all-Ireland basis, and in this context calculated on the basis of prevailing island-wide economic conditions taking into account both business need for and benefit from public infrastructure and services and the need to ensure that the rate does not act as a disincentive to investment and employment.

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"We support banded corporation tax and propose its extension across the island, to ensure progressive taxation based on business size, profit margin, and social contribution.

"Income Tax - We believe that those earning the minimum wage or less must be kept out of the tax net and those earning up to the average industrial wage should be kept within the standard rate tax band.

"We support a third tax band on high earners, those earning three times the average industrial wage. We would also be open to introducing additional higher tax bands on the very highest incomes.

"NIC - We would remove the NIC Upper Earnings Limit.

"Capital Acquisitions Tax (Inheritance Tax) - We would harmonise CAT on an all-Ireland basis, and would examine the introduction of banded CAT rates that increase with the increased value of the gift, We would charge a new higher rate on inheritances and gifts that are over twice the standard rate.

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"VAT - We would look to decrease VAT (a regressive, unfair form of tax) to the lowest possible rate sustainable without negative impact on public revenue.

"However this would have to happen in tandem with other taxation reform and any necessary reform of VAT rules at EU level. Ultimately we would manage a transition away from dependence on consumption-related taxation, which (as we have seen with the recession) is volatile rather than sustainable.

"We also support the introduction of a 'solidarity tax' on the very wealthiest, as exists in other European jurisdictions, which is an income-linked tax on all net assets over €1m excluding farmland. The specific rate should be reviewed with each budget.

"In the six Counties, the lack of fiscal autonomy creates insurmountable problems. The inability to change the tax system seriously curtails the capacity of political leaders and policy makers to react to changes in the economy.

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"Dependence on the British Exchequer for a block grant is not sustainable, as British Government spending decisions often do not serve the people of the North but instead reflect wider cost-savings imperatives.

"Consequently, the power-sharing administration is now faced with reliance on an ever-burdensome rates system to plug the gap in public finances."

"Therefore, as for increased taxation v. expenditure cuts: we believe that where tax increases become necessary they should always target in the first instance those highest earners who are most able to pay, and decisions should shelter those low income individuals who are economically the most vulnerable.

"As for spending cuts, we support the elimination of unnecessary duplicative waste arising from the maintenance of two separate public services on a small island with a small population.

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"All-Ireland harmonisation and integration of public services would help realise real savings and this should happen well before any cuts are made in public spending that affect workers' incomes and frontline service provision.

"In addition, we do not support budgetary contraction policies, which deflate the economy, but support instead financial stimulus packages that will create jobs and thereby increase taxation revenue and simultaneously reduce expenditure on social welfare, as well as support increased economic competitiveness through enhancement of physical and social infrastructure."

* tax harmonisation on an all-island basis

* eliminate waste through all-island integration

* all-island corporation tax rate

* no income tax for minimum wage

* standard income tax for average wage

* additional rate for highest earners

* remove NIC upper earnings limit

* higher rate on inheritance and gives

* decrease VAT

* solidarity tax on superrich

* argue for the devolution of tax raising powers

* local MPs have no influence

People Before Profit: Eamon McCann

"I don't agree with the budget and I don't believe that the key tax rates are fair.

"What I'd do to cut spending: Scrap the replacement for the Trident submarine system - savings, 97 billion; don't buy 232 new Typhoon aircraft - 21 billion; cancel the order for f35 joint combat aircraft and two carriers - 14 billion; stop the war in Afghanistan - 4.5 billion ( a year); scrap the ID card proposal - 5 billion; There's 136.5 billion.

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"What I'd do to raise revenue: Impose the 11 percent national insurance rate on earnings over 844 a week to raise 8.5 billion; return the top rate of income tax to what it was under Thatcher - 60 percent, raising 19 billion; close the legal tax loopholes which cost around 25 billion; close illegal tax evasion schemes - 70 billion; collect the 28 billion tax revenue which simply goes uncollected; restore corporation tax to Thatcherite 1997 levels - 18 billion. That's 168.5 billion in new receipts.

"It is NOT TRUE that the country is in such dire straits we all must tighten our belts. The money's there. But it is in the wrong hands. What we need is a grass-roots movement in factories, offices, communities, colleges, hospitals etc., which will refuse to accept cuts quietly and instead defend every job and service.

"I would use the position of MP to help build this movement. My constituency office would be an organising centre for all in Derry who have problems which need sorted or are involved in campaigns to make life better for the majority."

* reduce defence spending

* scrap ID card proposal

* impose 11 per cent NIC on earnings over 844

* raise additional income tax rate to 60 per cent

* raise corporation tax

* close tax evasion schemes