Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has agreed to freeze the domestic rate for the Newtownabbey area during 2016/17.
At a special meeting in Mossley Mill on February 8, councillors rubber-stamped a zero per cent increase in Newtownabbey’s domestic rate, and a 0.49 per cent decrease in its non-domestic rate.
Councillors also agreed to a 0.49 per cent decrease in the domestic and non-domestic rates for the Antrim area.
The district rate was struck at 0.3475p in the pound for the domestic rate and 24.206p in the pound for the non-domestic rate.
However, after a subsidy was applied, the domestic rate for the Newtownabbey area will remain at 0.3423p in the pound.
The motion to strike the rate was put forward by DUP councillor Philip Brett, who said: “We are all united in the mantra of achieving the best possible service for our residents and customers at the lowest possible costs.
“This represents a rates freeze for three years in Newtownabbey and, for the second year, a rates cut for Antrim.”
UUP Alderman Mark Cosgrove said that it was his “great privilege to second the proposal.”
Ald Cosgrove praised the work of the “united team” of council members, officers and staff, who he said had enabled the council to “deliver its services to such a high standard.”
“Very, very few councils have been able to sustain a rates freeze,” he continued.
“We have a rates freeze for Newtownabbey ratepayers and customers and a rates reduction for Antrim ratepayers and customers.
“This year we have delivered a rates reduction for our businesses, many of whom have had a very difficult time over the last five years and are starting to see the green shoots of recovery.
“I hope we can continue this in the year to come. I am proud to second this proposal.”
Alliance Councillor Billy Webb also voiced his support for the proposal and paid tribute to the work which had gone into striking the rate.
“We have all made sure that the services that will be delivered won’t be altered or changed or downgraded, and we will be delivering a top quality service very economically,” he stated.
SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland said that she too was “very happy to support” Cllr Brett’s proposal.
“This is a good news story and an excellent achievement for our borough,” she stated.
“We have always delivered first class services to our customers and that will not change.
“I thank the officers and members for the work that they have done.”
Lending his support to the motion, Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Goodman also thanked council staff and colleagues for their work in striking the rate.
TUV Councillor David Hollis said that the council’s officers had “done everything for the people of this borough.”
Having received cross-party support, Cllr Brett’s motion to strike the rate was unanimously agreed.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Brett added: “I am delighted that this rates freeze, and even a reduction for some residents, has been achieved by this council whilst continuing major investment throughout the borough including the £4.5 million Valley Park Project and also the £20 million already committed to future projects, shows that this council is delivering excellent community facilities within its means.”
In a statement released after the meeting, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Councillor Thomas Hogg commented: “I am pleased that the ratepayers in the Newtownabbey area will experience a freeze in their rates for the third year running, whilst those in Antrim receive a rates freeze and subsequent reduction for what is now the second year running.
“Despite having an ambitious capital programme of approximately £22 million, the council has still been able to achieve efficiencies whilst delivering excellent services for its residents.
“The high profile V36 scheme in Newtownabbey is an example of a fantastic scheme delivered to make real improvements for our residents, and in Antrim, work continues on the exciting Allen Park improvement which we look forward to completing later this year.
“It is good news too for local businesses, with a reduction for our non-domestic ratepayers across the borough.
“I know our local businesses will be pleased to hear this as any reduction in outgoings is welcome during these challenging economic times.
“It is great to deliver such good news to our citizens.”
The council’s statement also pointed out that the regional rate, which is determined by the Northern Ireland Assembly and is the same across all council areas, has increased by 1.71 per cent from 2015/16.
“Any increase that residents see this year in their rates bills will be due to the regional rate only,” it concluded.