Council pledges continuing engagement on ‘critical’ Rates Support Grant

MID and East Antrim Borough Council says they will continue to lobby the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities (DfC) on the ‘critical need’ to maintain the Rates Support Grant, which contributes significantly to developing and sustaining the area’s economy and public services.

Last year, a Judicial Review of the method used to calculate the Grant, which is awarded to seven of the 11 Northern Ireland councils to assist with additional needs in each of the areas, was challenged in the High Court.

That ruling found that individual conversion factors should be taken into consideration as opposed to taking a single, Northern Ireland approach, when awarding the Grant.

As a result of that decision, the Rates Support Grant awarded to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in 2019/20 was increased.

Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy recently met with the Permanent Secretary of the DfC, Tracy Meharg, and emphasised the need to keep the calculation method as recommended by the High Court.

The Chief Executive has informed councillors of this continuing engagement and her intention that the borough’s position will be made clear at any future meetings.

Cllr Keith Turner said: “As a Council we always strive to give the ratepayer value for money and have historically set the local rate beneath the level of inflation.

“The loss of any financial support would have a detrimental effect on the work of Council officers to attract much needed business into our area and indeed across the other six councils that receive the additional funding support.

“In January of this year NILGA (Northern Ireland Local Government Association) criticised as ‘anti-investment’ the Department of Finance’s budgetary briefing paper idea of removing the Rates Support Grant.

“At a time when local councils are the only functioning political entity in Northern Ireland, any support local government administrations can get in achieving their aims for the people in their areas should not be placed at risk.”

The seven local councils which receive the Rates Support Grant are: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon; Causeway Coast & Glens; Derry & Strabane; Fermanagh & Omagh; Mid Ulster; and Newry & Mourne.

The Rates Support Grant was originally worth approximately £20.5M across the qualifying councils, however, the current level of £15.865M represents a reduction of 22.5%.

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