RATE RISE ‘ONE OF THE LOWEST’

CRAIGAVON councillors agreed to strike a rate increase of 1.99% on Monday night.

Domestic rates will be 28p a week more than last year, while business ratepayers will have to pay an extra £3.52 a week.

The new rate was passed unanimously.

Councillors pointed out that it was one of the lowest rate rises in Northern Ireland.

The new rate was proposed by the DUP’s Carla Lockhart and seconded by Sinn Fein’s Johnny McGibbon.

Cllr Lockhart said: “I’m delighted to say that council officers and members have been able to work together to strike a low rate for the good people of this borough.

“The process has been long, hard and thorough, but every late night we have spent deliberating on this has been worthwhile.

“We located a lot of fat in the system which ratepayers should not have been paying for.”

She added: “Our task does not end here. We will continue to fight for low rates rises for the people of this borough.”

Cllr McGibbon thanked council officers for their “hard work”.

“It goes without saying, that many of the citizens of Craigavon are facing severe and difficult economic times,” he said.

“Citizens are struggling with the daily grind of paying bills for electricity, and fuel, to light and heat their homes.

“Against this background local councils are challenged with providing services in an efficient manner, on the basis of equality and the targeting of social need while at the same time ensuring a fair and justifiable use of public money.

“In short; spending wisely and saving wisely. That is the approach that SF have taken to the rates process.”

He continued: “We use the terms ‘saving wisely and spending wisely’ quite deliberately, because one thing we as a council and as a society have to acknowledge is that we cannot cut our way out of recession.

“Instead, we must find innovative ways to attract investment, to promote local business and stimulate the local economy.”

The UUP’s Alderman Meta Crozier described the rate as a “good outcome”.

“It has been a very hard year,” she said.

“We have given the officers a lot of work to do, but we have all worked through it.

“However, I’m very mindful that we will have to start to look at next year’s rate.”

Mayor Alan Carson said: “What this Council has achieved is absolutely exceptional.

“All of our directors have made savings along the way, and we appreciate that.”