Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

New district rate struck

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has struck a new district rate which will see a 2.66 per cent increase on both domestic and non-domestic properties.   At a meeting of the Council on Monday last (Feb 6th) NMDDC agreed its budget for the next financial year,  striking the increase in district rate which will cover the cost of the public services the Council is responsible for, including a wide range of environmental services such as refuse collection and street cleansing, the economic regeneration of our District, the provision of leisure and community facilities and planning.

Rates paid by Newry and Mourne residents every year are made-up of the District Rate (which is agreed by the Council) and the Regional Rate (which is agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive).  This money, along with the block grant that the Northern Ireland Executive receives from Westminster, is used to pay for public services.

In a statement released on Monday, the Council said it “remains despite many challenges, committed to delivering on our strategic priorities, as set out in our Corporate Plan for the period 2015-2019.

“During 2017/2018 we will complete the construction of a major leisure centre, Newry Leisure Centre Phase 2 ,which will provide state of the art indoor leisure facilities including Gym, Sports Halls, Class Studios, Squash and Handball Courts, Café, Soft Play and other facilities.

“We will also continue the construction of our new Leisure Centre in Downpatrick also offering a wide range of high quality leisure facilities for completion in 2018/19. The internal upgrade of Newry Town Hall will be completed in 2017/18 and Camlough Lake will also open for water sports and activities in 2017/18.

“These major projects representing a combined investment of almost £39 million will provide our ratepayers with two very modern Leisure Facilities in addition to our other leisure, arts and cultural services currently available.”

The Council also highlighted the completion of two key leisure strategies during the 2016/17 year, these being the Play Strategy and Sports Facilities Strategies – both of which will mean the Council will undertake substantial investment over the next 4-5 years in new and upgraded Play Facilities whilst also upgrading existing Sports Facilities including pitches and pavilions.

Included in the Council’s leisure strategies over the next 12 months will be the commencement of the Warrenpoint Municipal Park Regeneration Project, as well as district-wide upgrades to play parks, sports facilities and community hubs throughout the region.

The Brown Bin Scheme (Food Waste Collection) is set to be extended during this financial year along with the provision of recycling for commercial properties in the legacy Down District.

The Council will also undertake the development of the Carlingford Louth Greenway Project in partnership with Louth County Council and the Pavement Cafe legislation will also be implemented.

The Council has committed to the regeneration of the district through town and city masterplans.  This will be realised through the development and implementation of revitalisation plans for Newry and Warrenpoint.

The £11 million Rural Development Programme is also set to support development within rural communities with the development and review of village plans and support for local businesses.

The Council will also deliver the Business Start Programme which will support the establishment of new businesses across the district, aiming to deliver 255 Business plans and create 155 jobs in the district in 2017/18, with  ongoing business development workshops taking place across the district.

The Tourism Strategy for 2017 – 2021 will be launched in the coming weeks. Working in partnership with Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and the entrepreneurial and customer-focused industry, the Council will develop The Mournes and Ring of Gullion and Mourne Coastal Visitor Experience Development Plans with an emphasis on animating the destination through stories and interpretation, vibrant gateway and hub communities; festivals and events and appropriate services from local businesses.

NMDDC pledged to continue to work closely with the local community and voluntary sector and with other Government Departments to lever in external funding in support of local communities.  It will continue with local delivery of the Social Investment Fund and revealed that an additional £4.25million of funding under the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme which will be used to support a number of locally based projects and initiatives that will promote positive relations between people from different communities and backgrounds.

According to the Council statement, it remains committed to supporting the community sector in the development of both community infrastructure and capital projects and aims to continue to build partnerships with local groups and directly support and deliver much needed community centre provision. To that end Council has established 7 District Electoral Areas Forums and will continue to support the implementation of the Community Plan.

The “Down your Street, Live Here Love Here” grant scheme providing funding between £500- £33000 for a range of environmental projects emphasising civic pride will also be extended.

Commenting on setting the Rates for 2017/’18, Chairperson of Council Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick said “ The Council continues to face very challenging demands in today’s environment and we are pleased following much consideration and discussion to be able to strike a rate which reflects citizens expectations at this time.  We have ensured there is no negative bearing on service delivery to our citizens during these demanding times as we seek to continue to deliver the high quality service our citizens expect and deserve.  I wish to thank my fellow Councillors and Senior Management for their cooperation in and commitment to achieving a realistic rate for 2017/’18.”

Mr Liam Hannaway Chief Executive said “We have now completed the second year of our Corporate Plan 2015-2019. This will mean bringing many of our key projects to fruition in 2017/18.  Our commitment to developing the District’s leisure and play infrastructure will enhance the quality of life of all our citizens.  The many and varied key events we held and supported raised the profile of this area on a local, national, and international basis and enhanced the economic wealth of our district. The regeneration of the district remains a key priority and throughout 2017/’18 the Council will continue to lead on this whilst levering major funding for the area. We will continue to engage closely with our communities to develop their capacity and through our Community Plan we will work together with all our partner agencies and stakeholders to achieve agreed outcomes for the benefit of all.”

Councillor Michael Ruane , Group Leader for Sinn Fein On Newry, Mourne & Down Council  stated,

“The Council has worked collaboratively to ensure we were able to agree the striking of  a 2.66 rate rise.

“Sinn Féin believe it is incumbent on all parties to work together for the benefit of the ratepayers and local businesses particularly in these continued challenging times.

Sinn Féin elected representatives are committed to ensuring efficient and effective service delivery to a best practice standard in order to guarantee true value for money”.