Mayor praises hard work of staff and members on setting rate

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The council’s decision to freeze the district rate for 2014/15 has been hailed an “historic” move.

The borough’s rates have been set at 26.7355p (non-domestic) and 0.3423p (domestic).

This was the last time that Newtownabbey Council will strike the district rate. The local authority is to merge with Antrim Borough Council after May’s local government election. Antrim councillors also voted for a rates freeze for the coming financial year.

Praising the work that was done to achieve the zero per cent rate increase in Newtownabbey, Mayor Fraser Agnew said: “This has been realised because of the council’s prudent financial management. We have, once again, achieved efficiency savings of approximately £2million this year and still managed to deliver a number of significant improvement schemes.

“In all my 25 years serving as a Newtownabbey councillor, 2014 has been the most historic year for setting the rates for a couple of reasons: It is the last year we as Newtownabbey Borough Council set the rate, and we have delivered a rates freeze for the first time.

“I personally want to thank the members, chief executive and officers for their work and effort, all of which have helped the council deliver some very welcome news.”

Jacqui Dixon, the council’s chief executive added: “Against a difficult economic backdrop, the council has delivered successful capital schemes, a number of which improved our play and leisure facilities across the borough. Of course we will continue to work in partnership with agencies, to explore any opportunities to secure external funding for future improvements.

“The preparation to merge with Antrim Borough Council in 2015 is well under way. At the same time our aim to be a progressive, responsive council delivering quality, value for money services, remains unchanged.”

The move to freeze the rate was also welcomed by Alderman Victor Robinson (DUP) and Councillors Billy Webb (Alliance), Noreen McClelland (SDLP) and Mark Cosgrove (UUP).

“We will always strive to keep the rates as low as possible, whilst maintaining first class frontline services for our ratepayers,” Alderman Robinson said.

“This move reflects the excellent work done by our staff in pruning back expenditure,” Cllr Webb added.

“Making ends meet with mounting bills is a challenge to us all. Hopefully this decision will take some of the pressure off our residents,” Cllr McClelland commented.

“The Review of Public Administration and the subsequent merger of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councils must deliver efficiencies that result in net savings to domestic ratepayers and our hard-pressed businesses,” Cllr Cosgrove stressed.

“We will be measured and judged as elected representatives on whether the promise of these savings is actually delivered so that in future years we are looking at decreasing rates bills. This will present many challenges, but it is vital that local government delivers the real efficiencies the same as every household and business across Newtownabbey has been forced to do.”