Make Your Vote Count 2017

Make Your Vote Count in the NI National Assembly Elections 2017

Our MYVC campaign challenges parties to respond to PCS members’ key concerns over jobs, pensions, pay and the public services they work hard to deliver. We want to know how your party intends to address socio-economic issues to create a better, fairer, more equal and inclusive society for all the people of N Ireland.

We have written to all the main parties and we will publish their responses as we recieve them on this page. We are also challenging the parties on Twitter in the final week before elections to get responses to our questions. Please join in by re-tweeting our messages from @PCS_NI  to your own local candidates and by using #makeyourvotecount

The questions we have asked are as follows:

If elected will your party:

  1. Campaign for tax justice, to close the tax gap, invest in HMRC and protect HMRC offices from closure?
  2. Support the principal of universal entitlement to welfare paid through taxation and oppose the implementation of welfare cuts?
  3. Campaign for well-funded public services, as an alternative to cuts and austerity, delivered by valued public sector workers and against privatisation?
  4. Campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality or all Northern Ireland citizens and against racism, homophobia and sectarianism?
  5. Campaign for a robust Sexual Orientation Strategy for N Ireland to protect and promote LGBT+ rights and to support equal marriage

Responses recieved so far:

The Green Party

SDLP

Sinn Fein

Alliance Party

Labour Alternative

People Before Profit

Progressive Unionst Party

 

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The Green Party:

  1. The Green Party will campaign for Tax Justice. It is public money that pays for the education of our children; public investment in health care that assures us, if we fall sick, we will receive medical care; that keeps us safe in our workplaces and homes, that gives us a chance of justice through our legal system, regardless, at least in principle, of whether we are rich or poor. Those who avoid or evade tax are causing our public services to be underfunded. We will continue to campaign on this issue.
  2. The Green Party believes wholeheartedly in the social welfare system and will fight to protect it. In my previous jobs as a homeless support worker I worked with some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  I am disgusted that it is these very people that the UK government has sought to target when deciding to make cuts.  The government has set a target of a massive £18billion of cuts to welfare benefits while only seeking to recoup £5bn of the money lost to public services everyday through tax evasion and avoidance.  While the Green Party supports the trade union calls for a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, the government is essentially robbing the poor and giving to the rich. Our social welfare system is the cornerstone of a compassionate society and while we should always seek to improve it, ‘modernisation’ is a government smokescreen for cuts and privatisation.
  3. The public sector plays a vital role in providing essential services to everyone regardless of income.  Such necessary services cannot be jeopardised by introducing the profit motive.  Experience tells us that when you privatise public services, quality drops and value to the public falls with it.  We cannot continue to privatise profits and nationalise debt, it is leaving our country bankrupt. The Green Party is committed to fighting any further privatisation of our public services and ensuring we have a more fair and equitable society.
  4. The Green Party have been and will continue to campaign for a programme of social and economic inclusion and equality for all Northern Ireland citizens and against racism, homophobia, sectarianism and sexism.
  5. The Green Party have been calling for a Sexual Orientation Strategy for years. The Government’s failure to deliver this has left LGBT people vulnerable in terms of homophobic bully, sexual health support, mental wellbeing and even their legal status in adoption and marriage equality. We will continue to campaign for this.

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SDLP:

  1. The SDLP will continue to campaign for tax justice, to close the tax gap and to invest in HMRC. The SDLP have campaigned against HMRC decision to close local tax offices in Northern Ireland by 2021 and operate out of a central office in Belfast. We have raised this issue in both the Assembly and the Westminster Parliament. We will continue to oppose these decisions and will continue to work to protect HMRC offices.
  2. We have consistently attempted to negate the devastating impact of Welfare Reform changes by amending legislation, presenting alternative proposals and calling for protections for the elderly, disabled and deprived. The SDLP have consistently opposed the transfer of welfare powers to Westminster and recognise the devastating impact it will have on vulnerable individuals and deprived communities.
  3. The end of the civil service pay freeze must mean pay recovery, particularly at lower grades and levels. The SDLP also believes there is a pressing need to raise pay entry bands for new entrants to the public sector. There must also be a fair and well-deserved consolidated pay-rise for our public sector workers.
  4. The SDLP is committed to defending and campaigning for equality and human rights across all sectors, regardless of: sexual orientation, religious belief, political opinion, ethnicity, age, class, marital status, sex, disability and between persons with dependents and persons without. A genuinely shared future will champion the rights of everyone in our society.
  5. The SDLP have long since supported the creation and implementation of a comprehensive and robust Sexual Orientation Strategy. Support for this strategy was part of our Programme for Government submissions over the last year. The SDLP Party leader Colum Eastwood alongside our Finance spokesperson Claire Hanna introduced the first motion in support of Equal Marriage to achieve majority support in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Our Justice spokesperson Alex Attwood introduced a Private Members Bill shortly before the collapse of the Assembly to make the necessary legislative amendments to introduce Equal Marriage to Northern Ireland.

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Sinn Fein:

  1. Sinn Féin is fully supportive of tax justice, ensuring that there is no tax dodging or tax avoidance.  Whilst the issue of taxation is within the purview of Westminster, Sinn Féin is seeking to have greater economic and financial powers devolved to the Assembly so as we can set our own economic and social agenda.  We are clear that it is in our best interests to ensure that all of those who should be paying tax do so.  We would of course need the experienced personnel to ensure that we get full compliance with tax justice.
  2. Sinn Féin is fully supportive of the principal of universal entitlement paid through taxation.  Our Party has been to the forefront of opposing the implementation of welfare cuts.  As part of the Fresh Start Agreement we ensured that the Executive set aside in excess of £500 million to put in place mitigation measures for those who will be most affected by welfare cuts.  We were instrumental in establishing a panel of welfare experts so as to ensure that the funding was targeted to those most in need.
  3. Sinn Féin is in favour of properly funded public services and opposed to the privatisation and offshoring of public services.  Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, when he was the Minister for Regional Development ensured that the water service was not privatised and that there were no domestic water charges.  We have held that position consistently.  We are campaigning against TTIP and the dangers that that could bring for the delivery of public services and offshoring.  We know and respect the work of the public sector in delivering public services and have called for all public sector workers to receive the Living Wage.
  4. Sinn Féin has always campaigned for social inclusion and equality.  We have been to forefront of tackling racism, homophobia and sectarianism recognising them for the cancers that they are within our society.  As part of our current election process we have published a Policy document, “One Community” Proposals On Tackling The Scourge Of Sectarianism In Northern Society.
  5. Sinn Féin is fully supportive of protecting and promoting the rights of the LGB & T communities.  We have striven to bring forward a Sexual Orientation Strategy against the blocking mechanisms of the DUP.  Our Party supports equal marriage having brought the issue for debate onto the floor of the Assembly on numerous occasions and were part of the process of ensuring the successful referendum on the issue in the 26 counties. More generally as you will be aware the circumstances surrounding this Assembly Election are unlike any that we have faced before.  Sinn Féin did not expect to be going back to the public nine months after the last election.  This election has been called as a result of extraordinary circumstances. The DUP’s arrogance and contempt in regard to the Renewable Heat Initiative has created a crisis of public confidence in the political institutions. Sinn Féin’s focus is to ensure that we get institutions that work for the benefit of everyone.  That means ensuring that equality, integrity, and respect are at the heart of government as we seek to move forward.

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Alliance Party:

  1. Tax is not a devolved matter but Alliance supports the need for protecting HMRC offices from closure and has met with NIPSA about this. This is both to maintain a vital service to those in need and to protect staff. Moreover, we are committed to openness and transparency in all its forms. This includes Tax justice and we would want to see a significant improvement of this.
  2. Alliance supports the principle of universal entitlement to welfare reform and recognises that our welfare system requires reform. However, this will largely come from Westminster. Northern Ireland can do its part too by tacking division and reducing the waste that comes from it.
  3. Alliance is in favour of strong public services and feels an alternative would be to focus on the cost of division which would be able to fund them.
  4. We would strongly support this. Alliance is strongly against racism, homophobia and sectarianism in all their forms.
  5. Alliance has long campaigned on LGBT issues and Naomi was personally involved with the first cross party private members bill that would have achieved this.

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Labour Alternative

  1. The fact that the super-rich in the UK evade paying £120 billion a year in taxes show the massive wealth that exists in our society, yet working and middle-class people are expected to endure endless austerity. We will campaign to close the tax loopholes that allow multinational companies to avoid paying their share. Our candidates have stood alongside PCS members in opposing closures of  HMRC offices. We agree with the view of the PCS that not only should there be significant investment in the HMRC but also that HMRC should “seek new powers if required, to ensure tax investigations are completed in a timely manner.”

  2. We support the principal of universal entitlement to welfare, paid for through progressive taxation and are actively opposed to the implementation of welfare cuts by both Westminster and Stormont. The effect of welfare ‘reform’ is clear for all to see, driving communities further into poverty and has been associated with an increase in mental health problems. We opposed to the Fresh Start agreement which handed power to implement these vicious cuts to the Tories at Westminster. We do not believe that agreement will seriously mitigate against the effects of the welfare cuts. Labour Alternative is committed to campaigning for the end and reversal of these welfare cuts and will support trade unionists and community protests to make this happen.

  3. Labour Alternative is opposed to all public sector cuts, privatisation and outsourcing. We believe we can have a well-funded, public service by introducing radical measures including progressive taxation. Assembly politicians should refuse to implement cuts, set “no-cuts” budgets based on people’s needs and mobilise working class support to demand the necessary funding. All five main parties are complicit in the culture of hand-outs and tax breaks for the rich. We oppose the proposal to cut corporation tax which will cost public services at least £300 million a year.  This will destroy already existing, decent jobs in order to attract low-paid, insecure jobs. This money should instead be invested in creating decent, useful jobs. Our candidates would use their positions to help build people power movements against cuts, job losses and for workers’ rights, linking up with those engaged in the same struggle in Britain and the South.

  4. Labour Alternative  is neither unionist nor nationalist but a party that promotes democratic, socialist ideas.  We stand for the unity of working class people - Protestant, Catholic and neither. We believe working class people have much more in common than divides us.  We stand in the tradition of uniting working class people in common struggle and believe, through solidarity, we can break down barriers and reach agreement on a shared future - including through compromise on the contentious issues that are used to divide us. A key part of Labour Alternative's platform is to oppose  discrimination and inequality in all its forms. We support marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.  Our candidates have organised protests against racist attacks and believe in challenging racism against refugees and migrant workers.  In schools and workplaces, we believe it is necessary to challenge discrimination and inequality in all its forms.

  5. Labour Alternative supports the idea of a robust Sexual Orientation Strategy for Northern Ireland as part of a struggle to challenge homophobia and transphobia in the workplace, schools and communities. We support marriage equality and believe mass protest can defeat the parties who seek to block equality. 

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People Before Profit

  1. People Before Profit believes it is obscene that corporations can find loopholes to avoid paying billions of pounds every year in tax. We should tax the rich more, and redistribute wealth in society.  We fully support the call for tax justice, and call for HMRC cuts to be reversed.
  2. Welfare reform has been a disaster for people in England, Scotland And Wales. It will have a devastating impact on people in Belfast and across the North. The welfare state must be defended, not dismantled as Stormont currently intends.
  3. PBP believes that other parties at Stormont should refuse to implement the cuts. They should join with us and the unions to stop the tories, not do their dirty work. There are alternatives to the cuts, but Stormont is intent on implementing them. Stormont should Lobby Westminster to increase income tax on the super-rich, not reduce corporation tax for big businesses. Stormont should borrow money to create jobs, not cut them. As part of the Fresh Start Agreement politicians have agreed to borrow £700 million from Westminster to make 20,000 civil servants redundant. If we can borrow £700 million to cuts jobs, why cant we borrow £700 million to make jobs, and help alleviate the problem of unemployment rather than deepen it. We should fight to reign in tax dodgers like Google and Amazon, instead of £3million Stormont has wasted on going after benefit fraud.  We need rent caps not benefit caps. Politicians complain about money spent on housing benefit. Yet it is rich landlords who are the ones making money from this. We should cap rents to affordable levels, which will put more money into people’s pockets and save millions on the welfare bill. We should demand a living wage for all workers, that would improve people’s lives, put money into people’s pockets and save millions from reduced benefit intake. The cap on rates for the wealthy should also be lifted.  PBP is fully committed to fighting for well funded public services, delivered by valued public sector workers. We should end PFI's which do nothing to improve public services, and only line the pockets of private corporations.

  4. We need to break down barriers in our society. This means opposing all forms of racism, sectarianism and bigotry. PBP believes in challenging racism, homophobia and sectarianism wherever it raises its head. We support the immediate introduction of marriage equality legislation in the North.  

  5. Its shocking that there is currently no Sexual Orientation strategy. We support a strategy which is inclusive of the LGB and Transgender community. We support equal marriage, I presented 20,000 signatures in 2016 on the Assembly floor calling for Marriage Equality. PBP will continue to support the fight for marriage equality and liberation of the LGBT+ community. 

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Progressive Unionst Party

  1. The Progressive Unionist Party have consistently argued for tax justice by rejecting the consensus on lowering Corporation Tax to attract new business. We believe that corporations should pay their fair share and that those taxes are a necessary redistribution to fund our social services in all of its guises. Further, we were amongst the first to raise concerns when private company Concentrix began to arbitrarily withdraw Tax Credits from our people, leaving them psychologically stressed and financially compromised. We support the maintenance of a well-regulated, efficient and just means of reviewing Tax Credits which does not leave people without necessary income.
  2. At our conference in 2016 we voted in policy our firm commitment to reject the social security sanctions which have left many dependent on food banks and unable to support themselves. The welfare state was hard-won by veterans and concerned citizens following WW1 and as a society emerging from violent conflict, we rely more heavily on these support mechanisms than other regions of the United Kingdom. We believe that every person has the fundamental human right to shelter, security of person and food security. In addition, we were one of the first parties to state our opposition to welfare reform and remain committed to protecting the welfare state for all our people.
  3. Our economic vision is not only to adequately fund public services by collecting the taxes which are owed by corporations, but to make better use of what we already have by moving toward a circular economy, where waste is minimised and re-use encouraged. We believe the economy and our environment are interlinked and that a clean environment and an economy which serves people are mutually dependent. We would use the £300m saved by choosing not to lower Corporation Tax to address issues such as fuel poverty, creating public and private sector jobs and alleviating a chronic social harm in one fell swoop.
  4. A good and fair society is one in which every citizen is valued for their unique contributions. Social marginalisation and economic inequality are closely tied, and to improve people’s wellbeing and build a rich, diverse and welcoming Northern Ireland we should all cooperate to tackle this. Further, our robust campaign to see mental health understood, funded and treated on a par with physical health, demonstrates our core values; that a healthy, confident, supported population are what will make Northern Ireland a better place. Sectarianism is a blight which we have not yet addressed at governmental level. The PUP were the first unionist party to advocate power-sharing and more so- the sharing of responsibility. We believe that this willing cooperation at the highest level sends a message; sectarianism harms us all, and we must show leadership in rejecting it and promoting tolerance and pluralism.
  5. Since 2014 the PUP have made clear their position on the inclusion of LGBT citizens; our policy in support of marriage equality setting us apart from other Unionist parties. We believe that British rights should be extended to British citizens, and that NI should be no different to other UK regions on this issue. If we are to create a society where each member feels valued, understood and appreciated, LGBT rights are non-negotiable. Continuing to block the extension of equal civil rights to others is not only demeaning but politically malevolent. The PUP are on the right side of history in supporting equality for all. 

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