The rates for domestic and business propoerties were struck this afternoon at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council.
The new rates fixed a District rate of 28.3811p in the pound for businesses and 0.4425p in the pound for domestic properties. Overall this represents a District Rate increase of 2.15% and in combination with the regional rate, will result in a total rates increase of 1.93% for ratepayers in Derry and an increase of 2.5% for those living in Strabane.
Broken down therefore this means that rates bills will increase by 29p per week or £15.34 per year for an average rate payer in Derry and 37p or £19.42 per year for the average bill payer in Strabane.
Based on the average property valuations being lower than in other Council areas, the average rate payer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area will continue to pay lower rates than average rates payers in most other areas in Northern Ireland.
In making this afternoon’s announcement Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Elisha McCallion said: “This has been a year of significant financial pressures, with the Council having to absorb a number of statutory pressures such as a 3.4% increase in national insurance costs and also having to make provision for budget shortfalls following the transfer of functions from Central Government. This Council has also taken the lead in implementing a living wage for all its’ employees ahead of the statutory living wage requirements.
“Despite these challenges, the Council has already in its’ first year been able to realise efficiencies of £1.132m which offset in entirety the impact of all the challenges.
“The decision by Central Government to protect the Rates Support Grant for local Councils for 2016/17 has been welcomed following significant lobbying by this Council. This puts the Council in a better position to make appropriate revenue and capital investments necessary to stimulate growth moving forward.
“The increase can therefore be attributed in entirety to growth proposals which reflect Councils ongoing commitment to growing and improving services for citizens. The additional investment will be directed towards Council’s emerging Community Plan and Investment Plan and also towards the area of festivals and events which has been an area of significant success for the region in recent years.
“Derry City and Strabane District Council has adopted a more long-term and strategic approach to the rates process to include a very ambitious capital programme and other aspirations arising from the Community Planning process, and there has been a huge shift towards investment for the future and building on the city and district’s growth potential.
“The Council has made significant progress in relation to its Community Plan which will require significant investment, part of which will include an ambitious capital plan consisting of new leisure developments community centre provision, parks and play provision, greenways and public realm and museum and visitor attractions. With this in mind Council has been focused when striking the rate to take into account the medium and longer term funding requirements to ensure Council can deliver on these plans and aspirations.
“Moving forward a strategic high level plan has been developed to show how additional rates investment could result in significant progress being made towards aspirational projects and allow us to use it as a lever to secure additional funding from external sources.
“Council has made huge strides in terms of realising efficiencies. Over the past nine months it has successfully realised £1.132m in efficiencies mainly through staff restructuring and other convergence initiatives. In the coming months, this efficiency process will continue with the aim of providing further funds towards growth aspirations and maximising value for money for ratepayers following the convergence of the two legacy Councils.
“At the centre of this strategy is economic, social and environmental regeneration, with specific emphasis this year on making additional provision to fund an ambitious investment programme across the entire new Council area. This will involve developing the city and regions festival and events and growing business support alongside opportunities to sustain, promote and create jobs. In addition to Council’s annual festivals and events, 2016/17 will see the return of the Clipper festival and also investment set aside towards the International Year of Food celebrations.
“The new Council is committed to delivering improved, more efficient and customer-focussed services across the whole of the new Council area for all ratepayers and to work in partnership with communities, businesses, statutory agencies and all government departments to improve the quality of life of its citizens, as well as promoting and encouraging investment and driving growth and prosperity.”
The rates were put to a vote by Chief Executive of the local authority, John Kelpie and were passed by the Council body.