Rates rise by 2.9 per cent

HOMEOWNERS face another rise in household rates after Banbridge District Council agreed on a 2.9 per cent increase for the next year.

The rise is expected to cost the average household around 38p a week, totalling almost £20 a year.

The rise is higher than the much-publicised 2.6 per cent rise for Belfast City residents, but it is the lowest rise in the past five years in this area.

It is not known where Banbridge ranks in comparison to the rates agreed by other councils - but that information is expected to be published next week.

Council chair Joan Baird said councillors wanted to strike as low a rate as possible considering the difficult economic situation people are finding themselves in.

“When we first began reviewing the district rate in November, there was a real concern that escalating fuel costs and waste disposal tax imposed on councils, together with lost income arising from the weakened economy, could result in a rate hike of around 8 per cent,” said Mrs Baird.

“Such an increase would be an entirely inappropriate rates burden on hard-pressed household and business finances. All party leaders have been liaising with

council staff to refine the proposed work programme for 2012/13 to achieve as small a rise as possible.”

Mrs Baird said the council will continue in their bid to provide the community with the best services.

“We have just produced a corporate strategy that outlines our key priorities for the next three years. We will live up to our mission ‘to serve, support and champion our district’ by stretching our budgets, delivering high quality services and increasing collaboration and partnership with our partners in the public and private sectors. Good financial management will be at the heart of everything we do to improve the district and local people’s quality of life.”

Councillor Baird commended her fellow Councillors and Council staff on keeping the district rate increase to a minimum and outlined some of the key ingredients that have helped combat cost pressures.

A spokesperson for the council said, “The council has one of the lowest staffing levels and costs in Northern Ireland; it maintained a healthy reserve account build up in better times; it delivered a successful marketing and management initiative in leisure centres to increase income; and it will be rolling out a new cost saving kerbside recycling scheme in April which will further improve the district’s recycling rate.

“In addition, the Council has earmarked over £1 million from its own funds as well as monies from the EU and Invest NI to stimulate the local economy. This investment will be used over the next three years to help local businesses come out of recession.

“As the Council moves towards local government reorganisation in 2015, it will continue to work hard to ensure that local ratepayers benefit from increased partnership working with neighbouring councils as well as other government departments and agencies.”