In the Sunday Independent today (I know, I know…) theres a most interesting piece. It notes that the offices of TDs are exempt from local authority rates while charity shops are not. This prompted me to think about the nature of politics. The exemption from rates applies not to their offices in the Oireachtas, but to the politician shops, for that is what they are, that are now a feature of the main street of many towns. Time was when politicians held their clinics in the back room of a pub. Now they have plush offices with their names emblazoned in lurid neon. These serve to advertise the wares of Timmy O’Hooligan or whomever, and are basically invitations to come ask him to intervene on their behalf (fixins) or to provide information (which the citizens information bureau down the road has anyhow). So its selling pork, fixins, info and so on.
Under the Valuation Act 2001 the basis is set for the levying of commercial rates. These same are a huge bubbear for many companies, and the debate on what exactly one gets for these rates paid to the local government is ongoing. Whatever it is its fair to say that a bookies office, a dentists surgery, a politician shop, all cheek by jowl on a street get the same. But the politician shop is exempt from commercial rates by virtue of Schedule 4 Section 19 of the Valuation Act 2001.
Along with politician shops also exempt are a whole clatter of other things : mainly they fall in to three categories – agricultural land, social good ( non profit museums, care centers, hospitals, colleges etc) and public works (lighthouses etc). Now, politicians have offices. These are located in and around the parliament. Thats where they work. They are not compelled to have a shop on the main street. They choose to do that. Politiicians get very sniffy when their professionalism is called into question. If they are operating from the shop as professional pork pullers, fixin merchants, information mongers and so on, they should surely be treated the same way as the other personal services on the street? If they are saying they are exempt, it must be because they want to be seen doing this as a public good (see citizens information) or else they are claiming they are doing this as a charity (why then get paid pretty well). The other alternative is that its a form of amateur dramatics….
In the USA fixins refer to the bits and pieces that go with food – pickle, biscuit, coleslaw, gravy etc. Like politician shops they are optional. One can have pork or whatever without the fixins. Theyre supplemental, not essential. So too are politician shops – they have offices in the parliament in which they have secretarial staff and where they are contactable, we have citizens information and other local bureau to give us advice on how to get a pothole fixed or a pension form filled in, and we have no need of these shops. Politicians elect to have them, at our expense, to show their wares, to sell themselves, to increase their income earning potential. In other words, they are commercial activities.
If they want to be treated like professionals, then act like same. Pay the rates the other professionals pay and expense them against tax. If they wont do so then they are amateurs. And we dont need amateurs running the place.