Domestic rates hike of 2.48% for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon householders

Civic Centre
Civic Centre

Domestic ratepayers in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area will be paying an extra 2.48% this year.

However business owners will benefit from a 2.48% reduction in rates.

Councillors agreed to the hike in domestic rates for 2020/21 at a special meeting on Tuesday night.

It follows a concerted campaign across the borough by businesses complaining that huge rates bills were the reason small firms were abandoning the high streets.

Paying for the new South Lakes Leisure Centre, which is due to open later this year, is one of the reasons for the rates increase, say the Council.

A spokesperson for ABC Council said: “This represents an additional 25 pence per week in the average domestic rates bill (or £11.77 in total for the year) and reflects the new budget set for 2020-21 and local priorities agreed. This includes the delivery of £105 million in capital investment and continued public service enhancements.

“The increase also takes into account inflationary cost pressures and a continued fall in the value of the Rates Support Grant from central government, which have been mitigated by efficiencies and savings made.

“Investment in health and wellbeing remains a key priority during a year ahead which will see the opening of the new state-of-the-art flagship South Lake Leisure Centre, major public realm works continuing to be rolled out in key towns, and parks and open spaces benefiting from a major, transformational investment programme.

“The council agreed a non-domestic rate reduction of 2.48% to support local businesses. Councillors agreed a domestic rate of 0.4419 and a non-domestic rate of 25.4413.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, said: “The Council has carefully and prudently balanced its priorities to ensure that capital investment across the borough is maintained and that vital public services are protected and improved for every citizen.

“To balance the cost pressures and the growing demand services, I’m pleased that following deep scrutiny and robust debate the Council has agreed a budget which will continue to underpin economic growth and prioritises health and wellbeing for everyone.”

Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Margaret Tinsley, said: “Since its inception in 2015, the Council has worked hard to keep any increase and burden on our ratepayer to an absolute minimum and we look forward to sharing the benefits of an ambitious programme of capital investments across the borough.”

Following on from the completion of the Portadown public realm scheme, further investment has been planned for Banbridge to benefit from regeneration schemes along with the completion of Dromore Town and the extension of Dromore Community Centre. Other projects include a significant investment at Gosford Forest Park, the continued delivery of the Council’s Play Strategy and heritage-led regeneration schemes in Armagh and Lurgan.

DUP Cllr Mark Baxter said: “Our  party were to the fore in fighting for low rates and ensuring that sufficient money has been set aside to invest in key projects and top quality service for all the ratepayers within the borough.

“We did indeed propose a lower rate than that which the council have struck this evening and unfortunately we didn’t receive the support across the chamber. It was our assessment that our proposal was fair and balanced and we will continue to fight for low rates to ensure we stick to our manifesto pledges whilst providing a quality service.

“Rate striking is one of the key elements of our role as a Councillor and we as a political party have taken it very seriously indeed. We have worked throughout the year and indeed right to the wire with regards to the striking process and while it’s our belief that we could have done more as a council we are content that the increase is well below what was first anticipated when the process started.

“We have recognised of late the blight of litter within our borough and the rise in dog fouling on our pavements and parks and have identified a number of areas were council can cut waste and reduce inefficiencies so as we can work to ensure ratepayers money is used where its needed most and   channelled into these problem areas we highlight on a daily basis.

“Our commitment as a party to our business community I believe is starting to emerge stronger as we continue to promote and champion our business base. We have and will continue to put businesses right at the very heart of our decision making given the significant contribution they make to the rates base, job creation, tackling unemployment and indeed making our Borough a great place to work, and do business.

“We want facilities in this borough that are world class, fit for purpose but affordable and to that end every decision we take as a DUP party whether it be popular or unpopular we have the rate payers right at our very heart.

“We look forward to seeing the Council continue on its journey in creating an area that is an economic driver in Northern Ireland. The key capital projects that we will be investing in will include the creation of a single leisure centre in Craigavon which is due for completion in the near future , the Armagh Gaol project is a renewed priority and the Dromore Leisure Centre upgrade is finally under construction , these are just an example of projects that we have promoted and lobbied for . I have no doubt that these capital spends will further improve our services as a Council and will be welcomed by our communities.”

Sinn Fein Cllr Catherine Nelson said: “We will always strive to ensure council provides the highest possible standard of services while providing value for money for ratepayers. This year will see the opening of the new state of the art Leisure Centre.

“In line with inflation and like all other organisations we face rising cost pressures in energy prices, insurance costs and employer contributions.

“The modest rate increase equates to 25p per week per household.

“Ours will be one of lowest rises in North and will allow us to continue delivering services and programmes including offering financial assistance to the tune of one million pounds to local community, voluntary and sporting organisations.”