MID and East Antrim Borough Council tonight agreed a 1.98% district rates increase for the borough’s ratepayers.
A Council spokesperson said the rate set is aimed at easing the impact on citizens whilst safeguarding major investment plans.
These include borough-wide investments, such as new pavilions in Kells and Sandy Bay in Larne, Blackhead Path improvements, and projects across eighteen villages.
Tonight the Council agreed a district rate increase of 1.98% – approximately 1% less than last year’s level of rate increase.
The Council spokesperson said the rate was achieved despite the loss of substantial rates income from the recent announcement of the closure of production facilities at Ballylumford near Larne.
Council’s portion of the rates amounts to 45% of the rates bills received by residents and businesses in Mid and East Antrim, with the remainder set by the Northern Ireland Office in the absence of a Stormont Executive.
The 1.98% increase represents an increase of 17 pence per week for the average household in Mid and East Antrim (72 pence per week when an assumed regional rate increase of 6.0% is included) and an average increase of £2.18 per week for businesses (£9.56 per week for businesses when the assumed regional rate increase of 6.0% is included).
Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor Cheryl Johnston, said the striking of a district rate was achieved due to the prudent financial management over several years by councillors and senior management team.
The district rate increase represents a domestic rate of 0.4296 pence in the pound and a non-domestic rate of 30.046 pence for 2019/20.
Councillor Johnston said: “The Elected Members and Council Officers have worked extremely hard to identify and implement efficiencies and savings across Mid and East Antrim, while at the same time safeguarding and enhancing service delivery, and ensuring investment in our borough.
“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s approach is always to strike a fair balance between keeping rates as low as possible, with securing existing and attracting new jobs, boosting inward investment and promoting tourism and other key priorities across the borough.
“This is in addition to money Council has also already secured for the next ten years, at no additional unplanned cost to the ratepayer, and this includes work on St Patrick’s Barracks development, The Gobbins phase two, Carrickfergus town centre regeneration, and rollout of broadband services in Carrickfergus and Ballymena.
“At last week’s meeting of full council, we were also told of more than £1m from the Rates Support Grant, which will also be used for investment locally.
“We continue to identify opportunities to significantly drive growth and investment in our borough and Northern Ireland and, along with Elected Members and citizens, look forward to embracing and capitalising on the opportunities ahead.
“Local government reform is delivering for our ratepayers and we have seen local decision-making bring substantial improvements for the citizens of the borough.
“We are working to deliver on the Mid and East Antrim Community Plan and our investment strategy is closely aligned with the key areas of focus in the Community Plan.”
Councillor Robert Logan, who proposed the adoption of the rate, added: “The challenging economic climate and its impact on citizens and businesses has been at the heart of Council’s decision-making on deciding this year’s rates level.
“Our Council is committed to doing everything we can to support local businesses to grow, and to encourage investment in the borough.
“We are also using our assets to continue to improve the rate base of Mid and East Antrim.
“In order to deliver a balanced rates process, we have also reviewed our Business Improvement and Efficiency Strategy to ensure that we minimise any impact on the ratepayer going forward in order to keep the rate as low as possible.”
The Council says growth in terms of infrastructure, capital, employment, skills, tourism, health and wellbeing and of the overall economy is the priority for Council within the corporate planning period 2019-23.
By investing in towns and facilities as well as initiatives designed to grow the local economy, the council says it is supporting the creation of new businesses and jobs to replace some of those that have been lost following announcements in recent years.