Caveat: Why stop at suspending just water charges?

The TV licence could be scrapped for a period while ‘top salaries’ at RTÉ are examined


As further details have emerged of the negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to allow the formation of a government and the suspension of water charges, it is surely only a matter of time before someone asks the question: “Why stop there ?”

It would be only a small step after water charges were “suspended” to consider the same for, say, electricity bills, and then to widen the approach to other unpopular levies as a central part of the new government’s action programme. If water charges are being abolished on the basis that no one likes them, what comes next?

The commission looking at the future of water charges and Irish Water could next be charged with examining the future electricity bills. Maybe Fianna Fáil would push for the ESB to be abolished and replaced by a national co-ordination body, with the generation and distribution of energy to become the responsibility of local county councils?

Consideration could also be given to the introduction of a separate “power-conservation” grant, which would mean the net cost to households would fall even more.

ESB bills could be “suspended” while the commission looked at it all. The outcome of this would then go to a Dáil committee that would not be bound by the commission’s decision and then to the Dáil, which would not be bound by the commission or the committee.

The commission would be charged with reporting in nine months, but everyone knows that it would all take a lot longer and that there is no knowing how long an Oireachtas committee could hold things up after that.

After all, the theory of the day seems to be: “ It’s a new way of doing politics – the Dáil will decide.” But the chances of the Dáil voting in the resumption of charging for anything after a period of suspension look, let’s just say, remote. The unspoken question is: “Who will pay?”

The scope of the commission’s work could be widened further. “A clear majority” of the electorate surely don’t like paying the annual motor tax either, after all, or VRT, for that matter.

The TV licence could be scrapped for a period while “top salaries” at RTÉ are examined. The commission could consider whether the delivery of RTÉ 1 and 2 is a “ basic human right” which should be provided at no cost, though there is division over whether this should extend to Sky Sports. The fact that some GAA matches are now shown on Sky could swing the decision.

A range of other charges could to be suspended pending an examination by the commission, include the local property tax, the second homes tax, bin charges, road tolls and the charge for plastic bags. All would be examined on the basis that “we are already paying for them”.

After all a home is necessity, just the same as water – and so is a local working refuse system. A second home might not qualify – not even in the heady pre-crash days when so many people were piling into property investment.

The Dáil could debate a wider extension of the commission’s work. You could argue that the general election showed “a clear majority of the electorate” wanted to pay less taxes and charges and get better services.The plan to abolish the USC would surely be revived, along with improvements to tax reliefs and credits. Excise duties could be cut and the commission would also examine whether more goods and services could be “ zero-rated” for VAT.

“Hard-pressed taxpayers need a break” is the theory, and the government’s job is to give the people what they want. Shortly before it all fell apart and a new election was called, the Dáil might get around to looking at the crime wave, the long waits for public patients for various vital health tests, the provision of mental health services and the urgent need to provide more housing. . . and where the money to tackle these priorities will come from.

Footnotes . . .

The Irish banking collapse had lots of unforeseen consequences, not least the spreading of former chief executives of Irish financial institutions around the world.

Few have landed in as attractive a location as Irish man Andrew Healy, who worked for Bank of Scotland for a period before moving to head up National Irish Bank – later Danske – in Ireland.

Healy is now chief executive of the Bank of the Maldives, a part-government-owned bank that is the main player in the market on the picture-postcard islands in the Indian Ocean where it has 265,000 customers.

It’s not a huge operation, but profits rose 29 per cent last year to more than €50 million and the business seems to be going well.

We were amused, however, to see Healy pictured this week on the Bank of Maldives Twitter account, in the middle of a group of contestants in the Maldivian Idol competition. We trust this reflects the bank’s sponsorship of the competition rather than any plan for a change of direction from the career banker.

Do you earn less than a Silicon Valley intern? Unfortunately, you most likely do. Gone are the days when interns were paid pennies (if at all) and young people took internships to get experience in the real world.

Summer interns at tech start-ups can earn $8,000 - $10,000 a month, not including relocation payments or cash stipends for housing. Yes, you’re reading this right.

Pinterest pays its interns $9,000 a month, with $1,000 for relocation and $3,000 per month for housing.

Twitch, the live-streaming video platform based in San Francisco, pays interns $7,400 per month, along with a $10,500 monthly stipend for housing and travel expenses.

Apple pays interns a salary of $6,700 a month while Google interns make $6,600. However, Google significantly trumps Apple when it comes to bonuses, offering interns a massive $9,000 in unspecified benefits compared to Apple’s monthly housing allowance of $1,000.

Now … to get a summer internship at a tech giant! It wasn’t just Richie (Boucher) and Archie (Kane) who drew the ire of Bank of Ireland shareholders at its grandly titled annual general court in UCD yesterday.

Steve and Rachel got it in the neck, too. Or should that be Rachel and Steve?

Either way, one elderly shareholder told Archie that he was sick of seeing “that stupid [TV] ad” for Bank of Ireland’s mortgage offers, which “seems to play several times a day every day of the week”.

He wanted to know how much it cost to make and what benefit it had brought the bank.

It was left to Richie to defend Steve and Rachel’s honour. He reminded shareholders that the bank is not allowed to sell its loans through intermediaries so “we depend on advertising” to engage with customers.

Like or not the ad “gets noticed” and is “recognised by everyone”, he said, while acknowledging that it doesn’t “appeal to all tastes”.

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