Mid & East Antrim Council, which takes in Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus, has struck its first rate at below the annual rate of inflation.
At a special meeting in The Braid last Thursday, members of the new council unanimously agreed a district domestic rate of 0.3960 pence and a district non-domestic rate of 27.6911 pence for 2015/16.
When discounts for rates convergence are applied the expected district rate increase for the average householder of the former Councils are: Ballymena 1.29%, Carrickfergus 0.69% and Larne 0.87%.
It was also revealed that the commercial, or district non-domestic, rate is expected to be reduced in the coming year in the former Larne and Ballymena council areas.
Billy Ashe, Presiding Chair of the shadow authority, which will be formally established on April 1, said councillors and officers had worked hard over the last number of months to deliver the new rate.
He said that in striking a rate below the annual rate of inflation, councillors had agreed to start a three-year business improvement and efficiency strategy “to ensure increased unavoidable costs will be absorbed by services without asking the ratepayer to pay in the form of additional rates”.
“It is our job now as Elected Members to make sure we deliver,” he said.
Proposing that members accept the proposed rate, DUP Cr Gregg McKeen described it as “really positive for the new Council moving forward”.
Sinn Féin, however, gave it a “qualified welcome” via Group Party Leader Paul Maguire who was critical of the other ‘legacy councils’ of Larne and Carrickfergus, claiming “they had a culture of borrowing and spending beyond their means”.
He stated: “For Larne to embark upon the £7 million Gobbins project and for Carrickfergus to fail to make provision in 10 years for the near £1 million cost of dredging of their marina, demonstrates their wilful intent to shackle the Ballymena ratepayer with an inequitable legacy of debt and the consequent rates increase struck this evening.”
SDLP Cr Declan O’Loan said he was “happy” to support the proposal which he said amounted to a “modest increase” which “will be welcomed by our ratepayers”. However, he “questioned” the expenditure of £55,000 on Armed Forces Day, stating: “I regard this as a piece of unionist self-indulgence and it sets a poor initial note for the Council.”
Cr Jim Brown (Ind.) said he was “delighted” Armed Forces Day had been secured and was “confident that monies will be mostly spent in this area.”
therefore will be going back to the ratepayers.”