‘Prudent’ Larne Council strikes lowest rate in four years

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A new district rate for domestic and commercial properties has been struck by Larne Borough Council, with a 2.75 per cent increase on last year.

The rate – which represents the lowest increase in four years – 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 was “very aware” of the economic hardships faced by local people and was “determined” to keep the district rate as low as possible, without over stretching its budget for 2014/15.

He added: “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 landfilling waste 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, the Ulster Unionist representative said the council would be delivering the same level of service in all areas, while making a saving of £211,000.

“Indeed”, he added, “the total increase in rates from 2008/09 until 2013/14 has risen by 16.3 per cent, which is well below the average for all 26 Councils at 20.9 per cent, leaving Larne with the sixth lowest increase over this period.

“This has been achieved by the implementation of stringent controls and the prudent management of council funds. All service areas 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.

“It has taken considerable effort to ensure the least possible increase, given that costs such as waste disposal continue to rise and such costs are beyond the control of Council. Similarly, revenue raised through income generating services is decreasing and the combined impact is that all councils are finding themselves in a difficult situation”.

Ald Beggs said the local authority would continue to deliver a “substantial” number of capital schemes for the period 2014-2017, totalling £12.6m.

The biggest project involves £7,500,000 to reinstate the Gobbins Cliff path at Islandmagee. This is the largest scheme undertaken by the council in its lifetime and it is expected to have significant economic benefits for Larne and the province as a whole.

Other projects include £750,000 extension for Larne cemetery and £550,000 for village renewal programmes throughout the borough.

“Council officers will continue to seek opportunities for funding from external sources to help deliver improvements, and continue to work in partnership with local communities to deliver services and facilities to the benefit of all those who work, live and visit our borough,” Ald Beggs concluded.