‘Prudent’ council strikes new 2.86pc higher district rate

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A NEW district rate for domestic and commercial properties has been struck by Larne Borough Council, with a 2.86 per cent increase on last year.

The rate, which was correctly predicted by the Larne Times last week, compares with a four per cent rise in 2012/2013 and is equivalent to a rise of 20 pence per week per £100,000 capital value.

Alderman Roy Beggs, chairman of the Rates sub committee said the local authority had taken “considerable effort” to ensure the lowest possible increase, stating that council is “very aware” of the economic hardships faced by many homeowners and businesses.

He added: “We were determined to keep our district rate as low as possible, without overstretching our budget for 2013/2014.

“Like every household in the borough, we face increasing costs for energy, electricity, gas and fuel, the increase over the last five years being almost 50 per cent.

“On top of these, the cost of landfill has risen by almost 30 per cent. This alone is one of the reasons we put so much effort into recycling and awareness programmes with schools and the community in the Borough.

“Despite these increases and others that are beyond our control, council has maintained its service expenditure in 2013/14 at the same level as last year. This effectively means that the Council will deliver the same level of service in all areas while making a saving of £270,000.

“Indeed, the total increase in rates from 2007/08 until 2012/13 has risen by 13.44 per cent, which is well below the average for all 26 councils at 19.27 per cent, leaving Larne with the fifth-lowest increase.”

Ald Beggs said the new rate had been achieved by “prudent management” of council funds, along with a reduction in both sickness absence and in overtime, enabling the creation of employment without the need for any form of redundancy.

“All service areas within the Council worked hard to identify efficiencies to contribute to minimising a rates increase, while ensuring that efficiency savings do not impact in a negative way on the service delivered to the public,” he added.

The council is committed to a number of capital schemes totalling over £13m for the period 2013-2016, including £6.5m for the landmark project to reinstate the Gobbins Cliff path at Islandmagee, £750,000 for Larne Cemetery extension and £600,000 for a village renewal programme throughout the borough.

“A modest increase in the rates will enable this capital expenditure to generate economic activity in the Larne area which will be to the benefit of all ratepayers,” Ald Beggs concluded.