Business boost after ‘lowest rate’ struck

Mossley Mill.
Mossley Mill.

Business owners in Antrim and Newtownabbey have been given a boost with a drop in commercial rates.

The borough council agreed a decrease in the business rate this year of 3.54 per cent at a special meeting at Mossley Mill on Monday night.

However, households will see an increase in domestic rates of 1.99 per cent although this is below the current rate of inflation at 2.2 per cent.

The council has struck a domestic rate of 0.3649 pence per pound and a non-domestic rate of 24.0426 pence per pound for 2020/21. These will come into effect on April 1.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council says that it has maintained its record of the lowest rates increase across Northern Ireland since the council mergers in 2015 despite the fact that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will not strike a rate until Wednesday evening.

Belfast City Council’s district rate increase for 2020/21 will be 1.99 per cent.

Antrim and Newtownabbey says that “keeping the rates low hasn’t been without its challenges given the inflationary pressures we are facing with salaries, energy and waste disposal”.

“The changes in waste collection will realise a saving of £500k and this has allowed the council to absorb some of the unavoidable increases.

“Savings of £6m are planned over the next 10 years with changes in the delivery of our waste collection.

“However, overall costs have unavoidably increased by £1.5m mainly due to salary costs of £560k, energy costs of £140k and waste disposal costs of £800k.

“Across the borough, we have attracted significant investment by granting planning permission for a number of large projects over the last 12 months with an estimated value in excess of £25m.

“We also continue to invest in our considerable assets through an ongoing Capital Investment Programme.”

The new rate was proposed by DUP leader on council Alderman Philip Brett who paid tribute to “each and every member in the chamber”.

He said: “There was a clear commitment from members to ensure that this council comes to deliver for everyone who lives and works in the borough.

“This council works best when we all work together. Ninety per cent of decisions are made unanimously, taking all members’ views on board to come up with the best results.

“We will work to ensure we continue to be the premier council throughout Northern Ireland.”

Ulster Unionist leader on council Alderman Mark Cosgrove seconded the proposal, adding: “This is the lowest increase in rates since Antrim and Newtownabbey was formed and any of the new councils in Northern Ireland.”

He went on to thank the council’s chief executive and senior management saying that they are “owed a debt of gratitude for the quality of service they provide and the way they operate within budget”.

“I think this is testament of what the council can achieve by our capital expenditure but in a fiscally prudent way.

“I welcome the fiscal trajectory this council has been on for quite a period.”

He said that the business community in Antrim and Newtownabbey will be “very happy”.

He urged Stormont to “take some fiscal responsibility when setting the other half”.

Speaking on behalf of Alliance, Alderman Julian McGrath said: “I am very pleased that we are able to keep the rate increase so low and still be able to deliver value for money and good service. I am very pleased with the 1.99 per cent increase.”

The SDLP’s Noreen McClelland commented: “I feel that we would like to tell the ratepayer there is no increase.

“Looking at all our figures, this is the best possible outcome for the ratepayers.

“We will continue as a group and councillors to work with officers to provide the best possible service.”

Commenting on behalf of Sinn Fein, Councillor Michael Goodman commended the council’s senior management team for “keeping the increase to such a manageable size”.

“It is important to balance the fact that we are increasing the rates but we are also delivering first class service.”

Alderman John Smyth, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, commended the staff for all their hard work.

He quipped that the local authority may be the “best borough in Ireland never mind Northern Ireland”.

In a statement issued after the meeting, he stated: “Careful financial

planning will allow us to invest in projects to support the businesses in our borough and focus on job creation through partnership opportunities such as Belfast Region City Deal”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter