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‘Balanced and prudent approach’ as ABC Council increases rates by 1.99%

Craigavon Civic Centre Council Chamber

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has agreed an increase in domestic and non-domestic rates for 2021-2022 (April 1 – March 31) of 1.99%.

This represents an additional 19p per week in the average domestic rates bill (or £9.68 in total for the year) and reflects the new budget set for 2021-22 and local priorities agreed.

This includes the future delivery of over £100 million in capital investment to stimulate the local economy in parallel with plans to deliver a comprehensive Recovery and Growth Framework for the borough, along with continued public service enhancements.

This increase takes into consideration the unprecedented situation faced by residents and businesses due to the pandemic, and has been agreed based on inflationary cost pressures and a continued fall in the value of the Rates Support Grant from central government, which have been offset by efficiencies and savings made by Council.

The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the associated lockdown and restrictions has had an adverse impact on the Council’s finances. The closure of facilities, rather than save the Council money, has had the opposite affect and added to the financial strain through the loss of income, which council relies on to help offset costs such as fixed overheads including staff costs, security and other premises costs.

To mitigate against the losses incurred and the challenges presented by the pandemic, Council has undertaken a major Financial Review and Transformation process and remains focussed on continuing to deliver efficiencies and savings whilst investing in frontline services, and at the same time creating capacity for further investment in the borough.

This investment is about providing leverage and assistance for local towns and villages and to allow local community groups to flourish.

Investment in strategic recovery and growth for the borough is a key priority, with a focus on local employment and regeneration projects. Other key priorities include a focus on Health and Wellbeing, Community Development projects, major public realm works continuing to be rolled out in key towns, and parks and open spaces continuing to benefit from a major, transformational investment programme.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Kevin Savage, said: “This year Council has been exceptionally conscious of the significant impact that the pandemic has had on citizens and businesses across the borough.

“That is why this decision represents a balanced and prudent approach, which will 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 demands on services, I’m pleased that following deep scrutiny and robust debate the Council has agreed a budget which will assist with economic regeneration post Covid-19, and prioritises increasingly important health and wellbeing supports for everyone in the year ahead.”

Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Kyle Savage, said: “Council has always strived to keep any increase and burden on our ratepayer to an absolute minimum, and this year’s decision has factored in the additional multifaceted complexities of the evolving pandemic situation.

“Our Councillors are exceptionally aware that the borough faces uncertain times, but it is hoped that this diverse programme of capital investments across the borough will aid economic recovery and growth, and support the wellbeing of all our citizens.”

Council has ambitious plans for the borough and as such needs to invest for the future. To do this it remains determined to build on the positive impact of major investment projects such as South Lake Leisure Centre, in Craigavon, and remains committed to the focused delivery of strategic development projects to stimulate the local economy.

Key investment in urban and rural regeneration will be delivered through the 2021-2022 capital investment programme, with a major infrastructure project in Banbridge as part of the Public Realm Scheme, which will deliver high quality enhancements to the current streetscape, along with heritage-led regeneration schemes in Armagh and Lurgan.

Work is also underway to prepare sites, such as the former Denny’s site in Portadown, to attract the investment needed for growth and jobs.

Substantial investment will also be provided for the continued delivery of Council’s Play Strategy, with developments at Kernan Play Park and Edenvilla Park, along with further development at Gosford Forest Park, providing additional infrastructure and leisure services to capitalise on the successful opening of the iconic play structures last year.

Citizens will also benefit from enhancements to service delivery, with refuse collection services receiving investment to provide a new standardised green bin recycling scheme for the borough.

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