Derry City and Strabane District Council is to increase rates by 2.76 percent for the 2017/18 financial year.
The council says theincrease will drive growth and investment in the City and Region, further develop leisure, sport, cultural and community facilities, and one which will see continued improvements to the delivery of high quality services to citizens right across the entire council area.
The increase of 2.76% to the District Rate, a rise which is equivalent to less than £1 per month for a house of average value in this council area, will ensure delivery of a diverse range of exciting new programmes and developments for the City and District which reflect the Council’s ongoing commitment to investment and growth.
Council Chief Executive John Kelpie, said: “With a key focus on business growth and economic development, physical and environmental regeneration, and community support and engagement, Council will in this incoming year further lead and promote development and investment across the City and District.”
He stressed: “Council will build on last year’s growth, which saw our domestic and non-domestic rates base grow for the first time in many years, compared to an overall average reduction across other Council areas in Northern Ireland.
“Council’s key priority this year will be working with all of our partners and Government departments to deliver on the objectives and targets of the emerging Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan 2017-2030 – our Council area’s Community Plan.”
He said significant investment had been earmarked towards the objectives and projects identified in the Strategic Inclusive Growth plan, as well as the advancement and delivery of Council’s significant capital projects programme. This will include completion of Phase 1 of the Brandywell Redevelopment Project, advancement of design, business case and costings for major new leisure facilities in Templemore and Strabane, as well as investment in parks, greenways and play parks right across the City and District. Detailed design work will also be completed this year on the Maritime Museum project together with significantly advancing proposals for major physical regeneration projects on key sites in Derry City Centre and Strabane Town Centre.
Other areas which will see significant investment will be in festivals and events, which have been a principal growth area for the Council following on from the UK City of Culture and the hosting of international festivals such as the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The Council has made significantly higher investment in events compared to other Councils, resulting in a major increase in visitors to the area. As part of the rates process it has been agreed to allocate £500k of efficiency savings towards major events growth, additional marketing, a community festivals competitive fund, and additional delivery support.
While DCSDC already invests more per resident in Community Services than any other Council, it has been agreed to provide further investment in growth in this sector, which will see additional resourcing to assist in the delivery of Local Community Plans and an increase in the grant aid budget. Within this investment additional allocations have been earmarked towards delivery of the Good Relations Programme, the Community Festivals Fund and funding for cultural venues, arts development grants and tourism venue support.
Budgets for the gritting of footpaths in extreme weather conditions, an energy management project, additional capacity in both legal services and corporate communications, and an investment in digital communications, have also been identified as key deliverables for the incoming year.
Two years since the creation of Derry City and Strabane District Council, the organisation has to date identified and realised efficiencies going forward of over £2m per annum, which will assist in the delivery of its significant capital aspirations and the roll-out of the Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan.
Council has also accommodated within next year’s financial planning a series of Central Government budget reduction impacts, and in addition has made provision for inflationary rises and service improvement measures, which include new health and safety software, tree surgery, and invasive species management, and the implementation of food waste collection services across the full Council area.
Speaking at the Special Meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie said: “Long overdue infrastructure investment to enhance both our physical and virtual connectivity, university expansion, skills and training initiatives to provide opportunity for our young people and increase employability together with the continuing advancement of the physical redevelopment of key economic opportunity sites in Derry City Centre and Strabane Town Centre remain Council’s key strategic focus.”
He added that the delivery of the Strategic Growth Plan – only possible with the full support and positive engagement of government – is projected to lead to the creation of over 10,000 new jobs in the Council area over the next ten years, and a reduction in unemployment levels to below the NI average for the first time in the City and District’s recent history. “This will improve the wealth, prosperity and general well-being of all of our citizens and most importantly will specifically target need, poverty and inequality.”
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Alderman Hilary McClintock, welcomed the Council’s very clear focus on building on the city and district’s growth potential.
Acknowledging the challenges of striking a balance when setting the rates, she complimented officers and members for their collective approach to striking a rate that successfully delivers key services and allows for growth and investment.
She said: “The Council has made significant strides in terms of realising efficiencies and news that over the past two years it has achieved to date over £2m of annual recurring savings is to be applauded. This process will continue as we work to maximise value for money, improve services for our ratepayers and deliver on our promises of investment in growth and regeneration.
“I look forward to working with Council officers and partners, including the community and voluntary sectors, statutory agencies, government departments and business to collectively deliver on our commitment for further investment, regeneration, and providing support to sustain and create jobs for the city and district,” she concluded.