Rates continue to rise in Mid-Ulster

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

MID-ULSTER District Council has continued its record of increasing rates throughout every year of its existence.

While ratepayers in Dungannon enjoyed five years of rate freezes in a row in the old dispensation, this was the third consecutive year Mid-Ulster Council has upped the rates.

A rates rise of 1.46% was backed by nationalist Councillors at a special meeting last week.

However, there was frustration for the DUP as their proposal to freeze rates was blocked by the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

And Sinn Fein themselves had proposed a rates rise of a fraction under two per cent.

At the meeting, Sinn Fein had requested an extra 190,000 to be added on to the budget, 120,000 to go towards capital projects and a further 70,000 to minority languages.

This would have brought the rates rise to 1.98%.

However, the SDLP indicated a lack of appetite to increase rates still further and proposed to accept the recommendation from Council officers for a 1.46% rise.

Chief Finance Officer JJ Tohill told members at the meeting a total of 40,288,641 was needed to fund the Council for the incoming year.

However, the DUP put forward a proposal that a freeze on the rates could be met by using a 1.2 million surplus.

It was proposed that 540,000 be used to freeze the rates, 467,000 set aside to cover potential energy costs and 212,345 placed into Council reserves.

While the various proposals were put forward, Council Chair Trevor Wilson proposed a brief break to allow further consideration.

After this, Sinn Fein said they were not going to proceed with their proposal to add almost 200,000 to the rates bill.

And the proposal to increase rates by 1.46% was voted through by nationalist members present at the meeting.

The rates rise means homes worth 125,000 will see a rates rise of 5.63 per year.

DUP Council Group Leader then issued a statement criticising the arrogance of Sinn Fein's Sean McPeake towards his party and unionism.

He said: "Cllr McPeake further went on to target a community project that the DUP had presented previously to Council and had received full council support.

"Sinn Fein are very quick to point the finger and demand figures but on the other hand Sinn Fein are unable to present the same.

"Cllr Ashton takes the lead on finance within our council group and she is on record on each and every occasion of presenting firm proposals to Council and substantiating the same. Cllr McPeake's attempt to tarnish her character is another demonstration of how Sinn Fein in Mid-Ulster treats unionists.

"Over the life of this council, Sinn Fein have, when it suits, identified Mid-Ulster as having high deprivation and poverty yet they have each year continued to put struggling businesses and householders under more pressure by raising the rates. The DUP strongly oppose this."

Mid-Ulster Council has confirmed there continues to be some uncertainty regarding the final rate bill, owing to the present crisis at Stormont.

Each year, Stormont pays out a 'Rates Support Grant', intended to compensate less wealthy councils.

However, the Council does not how much it will receive. Last year they received 2.9 million.

Neither does the Council know how much the regional rate will be, as the Council only has power to set the district rate aspect of the bill.


How the budget breaks down by Department

Chief Executive - 2,535,849

Director of Business & Communities - 3,425,081

Director of Culture & Leisure - 7,708,615

Director of Environment & Property -16,319,428

Director of Finance - 5,820,908

Director of Organisational Development - 740,930

Director of Public Health/Infrastructure - 2,405,485

Grand Total - 38,956,296


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