Mid and East Antrim Council defends rates increase ‘to grow local economy’

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Mid and East Antrim Council has defended its decision to increase the district rate by 2.32 per cent, claiming it is needed to “grow the local economy.”

The district rate increase, agreed at a full council meeting on February 15, represents a domestic rate of 0.4092 pence in the pound and a non-domestic rate of 28.6150 pence for 2017/18.

This represents an increase of 35 pence per week for the average household in Mid and East Antrim and an average increase of £4.66 per week for businesses when the expected regional rate increase of 1.8 per cent is included.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE said that while she was “aware of the need to keep the rates burden on residents and businesses as low as possible,” there was also a “pressing need to invest in our area and grow our local economy.”

She continued: “We have increased the district rate to promote much-needed development and investment in our borough and support local businesses.

“This approach represents a balance between keeping the rate increase as low as possible, whilst securing existing jobs and attracting new jobs, inward investment and tourism across the Borough. We continue to be committed to investing in our facilities.”

“Our significant planned investment in the Mid and East Antrim area includes the exciting development at St Patrick’s Barracks, replacement of both Seven Towers Leisure Centre and Waveney Community Centre in Ballymena; development works at The Gobbins and Blackhead cliff paths at Islandmagee; provision of additional cemetery space within the Borough; refurbishment of sports pavilions in Larne, and refurbishment work at Sullatober Recycling Centre in Carrickfergus.

“Local government reform is working and already we have seen local decision making improvements for the citizens of the Borough.

“In the coming months we will be asking residents to maximise their recycling, particularly in relation to the amount of food waste generated and the amount then recycled. We will be purchasing 10,000 more brown bins this year, specifically to assist better recycling of food waste.

“The tax Council pays on black bin waste that goes to landfill costs us over £3million each year, so it is vital that our recycling rates continue to increase to enable this money to be better spent,” she concluded.

Chair of Council’s Policy and Resources Committee Alderman Gregg McKeen added: “The tough economic climate and its impact on the jobs of many Mid and East Antrim citizens and businesses has once again been at the forefront of Council’s debates on deciding this year’s rates level.

“We are fully committed to supporting our local businesses to grow and invest in the Borough and we will use our assets to continue to improve the rate base of Mid and East Antrim.

“The rates increase has been achieved by Council absorbing significant cost increases and, in response, we have also commenced our Business Improvement and Efficiency Strategy to ensure that we minimise any impact on the ratepayer going forward in order to keep the rate as low as possible.”