Call to probe rates rises

Carla Lockhart
Carla Lockhart

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council may carry out an impact assessment on the effect rates re-evaluation has had on local businesses and homes.

Councillors on the new supercouncil have logged hundreds of complaints from various businesses and individuals who have had ‘astronomical’ rises in their rates.

Independent councillor Paul Berry led the call to action and urged the Council’s Finance Department to assess the impact on the community. He claimed that if nothing is done it could have a serious impact on business. He blamed the Department of Finance for the rates rise saying: “A message should go out to the House on the Hill - something has to be done or businesses will be shutting their doors.”

However, DUP Cllr Carla Lockhart, whose party colleague is Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, said that ‘quite a few businesses had benefited from the rates re-evaluation’.

She agreed that the Finance Director should carry out an impact assessment across the area. “People are at a loss as to how to appeal,” she said.

Cllr Jim Speers asked Land and Property Services to ‘remove their mask’ and organise workshops in the community to help deal with the issue. He said some properties had seen an ‘astronomical rise’ in rates.

Cllr Berry proposed that the Finance Department at the council carry out an impact assessment and the council should ask for a meeting with the Finance Minister and the LPS.

Ulster Unionist Arnold Hatch suggested the survey go beyond just the local Chambers of Commerce.

Chief Executive of ABC Council Roger Wilson said the LPS had met with the Finance and Resources Committee in January. He said he had a meeting with the LPS Chief Executive who is keen to meet council.

SDLP Cllr Thomas O’Hanlon asked Building Control to do a break-down by ward area of the differences in rental value and rates and the difference in bills.