BANNSIDE TUV councillor Timothy Gaston has expressed his disappointment that Mid and East Antrim has increased rates by 1.98% when he had put a detailed proposal to the council which he says would have enabled a rates freeze.
Councillor Gaston said: “I and my colleague were elected on a platform to bring value for money for ratepayers. That isn’t just a slogan for us at election time but something we seek to deliver in the council chamber.
“While the gullible Alliance Party did the bidding of the DUP in proposing a rates increase of 1.98% TUV made proposals which would have allowed us to freeze the rates.
“My proposal would have:
• Spread the design fee allocated for Ballymena Leisure Centre by moving a third of the fee allocated to the following year as the council isn’t yet advanced enough in its design stage to require the full £669,820 in the 2019/20 budget. This would have saved the ratepayer £7,900 in loan repayments and would still meet our construction target;
• Removed the £200,000 set aside for property on Linenhall Street until a business case is produced to justify the need for the property would save £7,000;
• Removed the £150,000 allocated for the upgrade of the Larne chamber until the future of the Larne chamber is clear saving £5,300;
• Removed the extra £39,000 of fat that was added on top of the £111,000 detailed business case for the upgrade of Carrick chamber saving £1,400;
• Found the additional funding requested for the Northern Ireland Open from private advertising or efficiencies elsewhere in the council budget rather than simply lumping the cost straight on the ratepayer;
• Cut the lavish £20,000 budget for hospitality for elected members by £5,000 – which would still allow for £1,250 per month or £31.25 per elected member per month, a sum I am sure is much more than most ratepayers would consider ample;
• Saved the £25,500 we spend on posting Connection magazines three times a year. Our waste teams deliver green bags to householders throughout the Borough 3 times a year. Why not save that £25,500 by getting them to deliver the magazine at the same time?;
• Cut the Freedom of the Borough ceremonies and other civic events fund from £50,000 to £40,000;
• Ensured the windfall that is the rates rebate of over one million pounds would be used to ease the burden on the ratepayer.
“These measures together with some others and a modest parking charge of £1 for five hours across the six council owned free car parks would have enabled us to freeze the rates and thereby help hard pressed businesses and ratepayers across the council.
“Had these proposals have been accepted we would still be on course to start construction of our new Ballymena leisure centre in 2021, we could still press ahead with phase 1 of the regeneration of St Patricks barracks, it would allow us to invest £750,000 in upgrading our council vehicle fleet and allow us to spend £250,000 in Glenarm to create community space whilst delivering £1.25m for our Sandy Bay pavilion and £500,000 for the GreenIsland sports hub to name but a few worthwhile projects.
“I have no doubt that there will be many ratepayers who will look at the proposals which I put forward on Wednesday night and wonder why these modest reductions to save them money were rejected wholesale by a council which seems uninterested in securing the best deal for the people of the council.
“This is particularly the case when it comes to hospitality, the upgrading of council chambers and the delivery of Connection magazines.
“I suspect this will not be forgotten once election time comes around.”