Council agrees rates rise of 1.99% as it highlights impact of virus

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has agreed an increase in domestic and non-domestic rates for 2021-2022 of 1.99 percent.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 11:25 am
Portadown Town Centre.
Portadown Town Centre.

This represents an additional 19 pence per week in the average domestic rates bill (or £9.68 in total for the year) and reflects the new budget set for 2021-22 and priorities agreed.

This, says the council, includes the future delivery of over £100m in capital investment to stimulate the local economy in parallel with plans to deliver a comprehensive Recovery and Growth Framework for the borough, along with continued public service enhancements.

Council says the increasae takes into consideration the unprecedented situation faced by residents and businesses due to the pandemic, and has been agreed based on inflationary cost pressures and a continued fall in the value of the Rates Support Grant from central government, which have been offset by efficiencies and savings made by Council.

The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and the associated lockdown and restrictions has had an adverse impact on the Council’s finances.

The closure of facilities, rather than save the Council money, has, it says, had the opposite affect and added to the financial strain through the loss of income.

To mitigate against the losses incurred and the challenges presented by the pandemic, the council says it has undertaken a major Financial Review and Transformation process and remains focussed on continuing to deliver efficiencies and savings whilst investing in frontline services, and at the same time creating capacity for further investment in the borough.

This investment is about providing leverage and assistance for local towns and villages and to allow local community groups to flourish.

Investment in strategic recovery and growth for the borough is a key priority, with a focus on local employment and regeneration projects.

Other key priorities, says the council, include a focus on Health and Wellbeing, Community Development projects, major public realm works continuing to be rolled out in key towns, and parks and open spaces continuing to benefit from a major investment programme.

Council says it has ambitious plans for the borough and as such needs to invest for the future. To do this it remains determined to build on the positive impact of major investment projects such as South Lake Leisure Centre, in Craigavon.

Key investment, says the council, in urban and rural regeneration will be delivered through the 2021-2022 capital investment programme, with a major infrastructure project in Banbridge as part of the Public Realm Scheme, which will deliver high quality enhancements to the streetscape.

There are also heritage-led regeneration schemes in Armagh and Lurgan.

Work is also underway to prepare sites, such as the former Denny’s site in Portadown, to attract the investment needed for growth and jobs.

Substantial investment will also be provided for the continued delivery of Council’s Play Strategy, with developments at Kernan Play Park and Edenvilla Park, along with further development at Gosford Forest Park, providing additional infrastructure and leisure services to capitalise on the successful opening of the iconic play structures last year.

The council says local people will also benefit from enhancements to service delivery, with refuse collection services receiving investment to provide a new standardised green bin recycling scheme for the borough.