LARNE householders and property owners can expect district rate increases around 4.5 to five per cent in the next two years.
Local authority capital projects including the McGarel Town Hall refurbishment, Market Yard regeneration, the Glenarm Masterplan and the exciting Gobbins Cliff Path restoration will all have an impact on the rates, councillors have been told. Anything less than the projected rate increases would mean cutting services, they were also warned.
The Larne Times reported last week that a four per cent rise district rate rise for 2012-13 was agreed by the council last week. And minutes of recent rates committee meetings reveal some of the decision-making that brought about that figure.
Early in the process, financial controller George Boyd advised that if Council set out to repeat last year’s three per cent increase while leaving the proposed capital programme intact, “the impact of financing costs would be severe and difficult to achieve without cutting services”.
Members also heard they will face difficult decisions soon on leisure centre charges and rates for council facilities including those community centres managed by the council. Consideration will also have to be given to charges for cemetery plots and perhaps the introduction of Sunday burials in Larne, despite an indication in the minutes that local clergy are not in favour “on the basis that there were so few of them”.
As figures were chopped and changed, there was talk at one stage of dispensing with the mayor’s annual gift of wine to staff and, with the conferences budget facing a 50 per cent cut, Ald Jack McKee, who represents the council annually at the Somme Pilgrimage on the Continent, offered to pay some of the cost himself after chief executive Geraldine McGahey reported that last year the budget was £3,000, which was “a lot of money for a four-day event” and there had been “criticism from the general public”.
Ald McKee’s offer was “generous”, said Ald Winston Fulton, but he did not believe that members should have to pay to attend events on behalf of the council.
It was agreed, however, that the number of delegates be reduced and this year Ald McKee will be accompanied at the 96th Somme anniversary events by recently elected councillor, Drew Niblock.
Nearing the conclusion of the negotiations, it was agreed the council would defer for another year the appointment of a director of corporate services and personal assistant.