Challenging times

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LOCAL ratepayers will see there bills rise by 2.34% after Coleraine Borough Councilstruck a rate for the new financial year at a special meeting last Tuesday night.

A recommended rise of 1.9% for the borough’s domestic and non-domestic rate was passed by councillors by thirteen votes to seven.

This rise, combined with the regional rate rise of 2.7%, gives an overall average domestic ratepayer an increase of 2.34%. In real terms, this equates to an additional 47p per week for a household with a property capital value of £150,000. The average non-domestic ratepayer will pay an extra 2.36% equating to £5.17 per week (based on a business property with a Net Annual Value of £20,000).

Council Chief Executive, Mr Roger Wilson, said the council was committed to an efficiency programme but also want to deliver ‘high quality services’ and invest in key capital projects. However, Mr Wilson also revealed council face rising waste managemnet costs and reducing levels of income.

“In setting the new rate, Councillors were very aware of the increased financial challenges being faced by its community,” he said.

“At the same time, Members wanted to ensure that the Council continues to deliver quality services, while investing in key capital projects that will benefit the Borough in years to come.

“Waste management costs (including a further increase in landfill tax) and reducing levels of income are the main financial pressures facing Council. Landfill tax alone costs Coleraine Borough Council approximately £1,080,000 (an increase of £127,800). To ensure Council continues to meet its legislative responsibilities it will continue to divert waste from landfill into recycling, however this incurs an additional cost of over £100,000.

“Like all organisations Council faces cost pressures in the coming year; however a programme of efficiencies across Councils’ service areas has kept the increase below inflation.

“Council is a major employer in the area so its salary costs are sizeable. However pay has been frozen for three years and new vacancies are carefully controlled.

“Council has worked hard to achieve efficiency savings which have mitigated the rise in net expenditure. Areas which have produced savings include: management of vacant posts, reduction in overtime, reduced energy usage, a review of all service budgets on a line by line basis, reduced casual staff costs through joint procurement, and savings due to the closure of Dunluce Centre in 2013.

“Council already has one of the lower domestic rates in the Province, and this District Rate rise of 1.9% is expected to maintain our 17th position out of the 26 councils.”

Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Sam Cole, said: “Whilst recognising that any increase in rates is unwelcome at this time, Council has made every effort to control its costs. Council is also aware of the continued pressures on local businesses and residents. It wishes to keep any rates increases below inflation while at the same time providing support to key events such as the North West 200 and the International Airshow. Regeneration and attracting tourists remain key priorities for Council so such events are crucial for the Borough.”