Council announces ‘moderate’ rate rise

February 15, 2016

An increase of 1.94 per cent in the District Rate agreed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council on Wednesday last, means ratepayers will fork out approximately 26p per week extra when their rates bill are determined.

With the Regional Rate set by the Assembly at 1.67 per cent, the figures, when added, equate to an increase of 1.82 per cent, or £13.74 per year.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council says the moderate increase will cover the cost of public services it provides, as well as financing a number of major planned projects.  Schemes earmarked include investments in Camlough Lake, Slieve Gullion Courtyard, Forkhill regeneration scheme, Kilbroney Park, Warrenpoint Municipal Park, Annalong Harbour, upgrade of Ballynahinch weather pitch, Downpatrick football club, Dunleath Pavilion, Drumanakelly Transfer Station, Downpatrick recycling centre and Lough Inch cemetery.

The construction of two new leisure centres – in Newry and Downpatrick – will account for £19.4m of the Council’s overall budget.  Work on phase two of the Newry Leisure Centre has commenced and will cost £9.5m while the construction of a new facility to replace Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick has also started and will cost £15.5m.

Commenting, Council Chairperson, Mickey Ruane, said, “The new Council in its first year is operating in very challenging times and the Council is pleased following much negotiations and discussion to be able to strike a rate which seeks to reflect the low level of price increases currently being expressed by consumers. This has enabled us to ensure there is no detrimental impact on service delivery to our citizens during these challenging times as we seek to continue to deliver the high quality service our citizens expect and deserve.”

Chief Executive, Mr Liam Hannaway, said the Council remains committed to delivering the strategic priorities within its Corporate Plan 2015-2019.

“Whilst the councillors continue to face the challenge of operating within very tight fiscal constraints and still deliver efficient and effective services to our citizens, we are delivering on major capital investment within the district,” he said.

“We will continue to advocate on our citizens behalf and lead the economic regeneration of this area whilst empowering and improving the capacity of our communities and we will work in partnership to seek opportunities to continue to lever substantial funding for the benefit of Newry Mourne and Down.”

Sinn Fein Group Leader on the Council, Councillor Terry Hearty acknowledged an increase “would be an added strain” on ratepayers but hoped it would be seen as an investment in the area.

Drawing attention to the two leisure centres, along with a number of smaller projects, he said: “This increase will also allow us to protect over £500,000 for seasonal events and festivals throughout the district.  As chair of the Tourism Task and Finish Working Group I can confirm that as well as being important to local communities these events are crucial for attracting visitors into the area and several of them are responsible for a large number of overnight stays in the district.  In addition to these projects we also have a duty to protect and maintain all the frontline services that the council currently offers.

“We have also kept some money available to assist communities in applying for funds from the Rural Development Programme, which is set to bring some £11m into the district over the next five years.  This money is crucial for village enhancement which is also part of our tourism project and plays a key role in plans to create rural jobs,” he added.

Councillor Hearty has also advised affected businesses to continue to appeal huge increases in business rates following revaluation.