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ABC ratepayers to face 2.48% increase in bills for next year

Armagh Gaol redevelopment described as 'renewed priority' as part of the rates-striking process

Ratepayers in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon will see their rates increase by 2.48% in the new financial year.

The hike – which will mean an average increase for householders of around 25p a week or £11.77 over the year – was passed at a meeting at Craigavon Civic Centre on Tuesday evening.

The new domestic rate is 0.4419 and non-domestic – or busines – rate of 25.4413.

But not all were in agreement with the rises.

The DUP said it had argued for a lower rate and proposed such as committee but “did not receive the support across the chamber”.

However, the party said it was pleased to see the redevelopment of Armagh Gaol emerge as a ‘renewed priority’ as part of the process while works are ongoing on other capital projects.

Enhanced efforts to deal with problematic issues such as dog fouling and littering also feature within the considerations.

DUP group leader Councillor Mark Baxter, speaking after the meeting, said: “Our  party were to the fore in fighting for low rates and ensuring that sufficient money has been set aside to invest in key projects and top quality service for all the ratepayers within the borough.

“We did indeed propose a lower rate than that which the council have struck this evening and unfortunately we didn’t receive the support across the chamber.

“It was our assessment that our proposal was fair and balanced and we will continue to fight for low rates to ensure we stick to our manifesto pledges whilst providing a quality service.

“Rate striking is one of the key elements of our role as a councillor and we as a political party have taken it very seriously indeed. We have worked throughout the year and indeed right to the wire with regards to the striking process and, while it’s our belief that we could have done more as a council, we are content that the increase is well below what was first anticipated when the process started.

“We have recognised of late the blight of litter within our borough and the rise in dog fouling on our pavements and parks and have identified a number of areas where council can cut waste and reduce inefficiencies so as we can work to ensure ratepayers’ money is used where it’s needed most and channelled into these problem areas we highlight on a daily basis.

“Our commitment as a party to our business community I believe is starting to emerge stronger as we continue to promote and champion our business base. We have and will continue to put businesses right at the very heart of our decision-making, given the significant contribution they make to the rates base, job creation, tackling unemployment and indeed making our borough a great place to work, and do business.

“We want facilities in this borough that are world class, fit for purpose but affordable and to that end every decision we take as a DUP party, whether it be popular or unpopular, we have the ratepayers right at our very heart.

“We look forward to seeing the council continue on its journey in creating an area that is an economic driver in Northern Ireland.

“The key capital projects that we will be investing in will include the creation of a single leisure centre in Craigavon, which is due for completion in the near future, the Armagh Gaol project is a renewed priority and the Dromore Leisure Centre upgrade is finally under construction.

“These are just an example of projects that we have promoted and lobbied for. I have no doubt that these capital spends will further improve our services as a council and will be welcomed by our communities.”

Council said the new rate includes the delivery of £105 million in capital investment and continued public service enhancements.

The increase “also takes into account inflationary cost pressures” and a “continued fall in the value of the Rates Support Grant from central government, which have been mitigated by efficiencies and savings made.”

Council says “inestment in health and wellbeing remains a key priority during a year ahead which will see the opening of the new state-of-the-art flagship South Lake Leisure Centre, major public realm works continuing to be rolled out in key towns, and parks and open spaces benefiting from a major, transformational investment programme”.

And following on from the completion of the Portadown public realm scheme, further investment has been planned for Banbridge to benefit from regeneration schemes along with the completion of Dromore Town and the extension of Dromore Community Centre.

Other projects include a “significant investment at Gosford Forest Park, the continued delivery of the Council’s Play Strategy and heritage-led regeneration schemes in Armagh and Lurgan”.

Lord Mayor Mealla Campbell, said: “The council has carefully and prudently balanced its priorities to ensure that capital investment across the borough is maintained and that vital public services are protected and improved for every citizen.

“To balance the cost pressures and the growing demand services, I’m pleased that following deep scrutiny and robust debate the council has agreed a budget which will continue to underpin economic growth and prioritises health and wellbeing for everyone.”

The new rate struck by ABC Council does not include the regional rate, which has yet to be struck by Stormont. Finalised bills will be calculated after both figures have been rubber-stamped.

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