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Belfast Council approves rates freeze

Belfast City Council has approved a rates freeze for the first time in years

Belfast City Council has approved a zero per cent increase on its rates bill, which a Sinn Féin councillor says will not affect frontlines services or investment.

Monday, 04 February 2013
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The rates freeze was backed by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance on Monday night, while the DUP and UUP each put forward unsuccessful motions in favour of rates reductions.

Belfast ratepayers can expect an increase of 1.49% on their bill after inflation and regional rate (2.7%) is taken into account.

Local councils set the district rate, which makes up 45% of the bill, but the rest is set by central government.

This will mean an annual increase of £8.86 for terrace houses and £30.13 for a four-bedroom detached house.

Business owners will see a rates increase of £108.14 per year on office properties and £87.06 on retail properties.

Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey, chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said:

"The zero increase has been achieved through a programme of planned cash savings of £2.1m for the coming year as part of our commitment to generate £20m of savings by 2015. During the past seven years the council has achieved £16m of savings.

"Work is already in progress on the efficiency programme for the next two years, with savings planned in the area of fleet, security, accommodation, energy, overtime and agency work."

Despite the rates freeze, we have secured our commitment to the £150m investment programme, including the creation of 200 jobs, which was launched last year and will run through to 2015.

Cllr Deirde Hargey

The councillor said that £5m was secured for investment in local communities and £20m to support projects in the city. A fund of £75m has also been ear-marked for facilities such as pitches, parks and play areas.

She added: "It is a remarkable achievement given that this has been achieved against a backdrop of the toughest post-war economic climate and pressures on rates and revenue incomes."

Meanwhile Lisburn City Council has approved a district rates increase of 1.97% on business and domestic properties.

Chairman of Lisburn council, Cllr Stephen Martin said: "We are all acutely aware of the financial difficulties faced by many residents and businesses as part of the ongoing global economic situation.

"It is against this backdrop that we have set the district rate well below the current level of inflation, determined to mitigate any unnecessary additional burden that the district rate will place on our residents," the Alliance councillor said.

"Existing departmental budgets have been frozen at current year levels, with the exceptions of a small number of items which have unavoidably increased, such as meeting the waste disposal legislative requirements and required new funding for the out workings from the Review of Public Administration."

In a statement, the council said that money would still go towards the final refurbishment of Wallace Park, at a cost of £3.5m, as well as work at Aberdelghy Golf Course, and other sports playing fields.