THE transformation of Solitude Park, construction of the new community centre in Gilford and the annual Buskfest event are just a few of the reasons local businesses and householders pay rates.
The rates collected from businesses across the district are calculated by adding the rate set locally by the council to the regional rate set by the council and that total is multiplied by the value of the property.
Currently Banbridge’s district rate is sitting tenth highest among the 26 councils in Northern Ireland.
The rates collected are then split evenly between the council - for projects such as those mentioned as well as street cleaning, town centre management, tourism and so on - and the Executive for province-wide projects including education, health and roads.
Some businesses complained to the Leader that the district rate set by the council is too high and currently makes it difficult for businesses that are struggling to gather the same footfall that they did in recent years.
It seems some businesses are downsizing in the hope they can continue trading on a smaller scale while benefitting from a lower rates bill. A spokeswoman at the council said much service provision in the area depends on rates paid and stressed that the “smaller industrial base” in this district compared to other areas means less rates are being paid in, accounting for the higher rate currently in place.
Aedan McCotter of Oxford Economics said the current situation could potentially be improved if Bridgewater Park was further developed.
“Any further development at the Outlet, Bridgewater Park, should increase the overall rates collected by Banbridge District Council given the assumed presence of new businesses,” said Mr McCotter. “While there will obviously be displacement from elsewhere, it is our belief the overall net effect will be positive.”
“How Banbridge District Council use this increased revenue is really at their own discretion, but it is a question we would encourage to be asked. It is possible that the town-centre retailers could be at the forefront of their thinking, however it really depends on the priorities of the Council. They may choose to focus spending on activities such as street cleaning, maintaining parks or upkeep of the general public realm.”