Rates freeze for businesses and residents in Antrim and Newtownabbey
Homeowners and businesses in Antrim and Newtownabbey have been spared a rise in the cost of their rates bills after the council agreed a zero increase at a special meeting on Monday evening.
The borough council said that it took the decision to “help hard-pressed businesses and the public already struggling as a result of the economic impact of the global pandemic”.
The council said that it has conducted a “wide ranging review of its finances following a halt to income streams from its leisure centres and theatres and took immediate steps to reduce spending” as a result of the Covid pandemic.
The council has had “very grave concerns” over rates income due to an anticipated “economic downturn” amid initial fears that residents could have been faced with a rate increase of as much as two per cent and had anticipated a drop in business rates of 35 per cent and a loss of £0.5m in domestic rates.
Commenting on the zero rates increase, Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor Councillor Jim Montgomery said: “Our council has consistently sought to deliver best value for our ratepayers with the lowest rates increase across all councils in Northern Ireland since the new councils were formed in 2015.
“However the challenge we faced this year was exceptional. For months, members have been mindful that any decisions we made, would ultimately impact on today’s announcement.”
Speaking at the meeting, Ulster Unionist group leader Alderman Mark Cosgrove said: “This has been a very challenging period of time for the residents and businesses of our borough and staff of our council.”
He went on to say that all 40 members should be “very proud” of the council’s “best rate setting” track record, which he noted, has included no rate increases and rate decreases for businesses.
He proceeded to propose a domestic rate of 0.3649 and non-domestic rate of 24.0426 pence in the pound which is the same as last year’s.
Alliance group leader Councillor Billy Webb said: “To be able to set this rate is a major achievement, only made possible through good management by our finance department and difficult decisions made last year.
“If we had not made those decisions, we would not be in a financial position ti set such a rate.”
SDLP group leader Councillor Roisin Lynch said: “I would also like to welcome the recommendation that has given us a zero per cent rate increase.
“It has been made possible through furlough and grants from Stormont.”
Cllr Lynch also noted that 73 Antrim and Newtownabbey council workers “took the brunt” when compulsory redundancies may have been necessary otherwise.
DUP group leader Alderman Philip Brett commented: “Since its inception, Antrim and Newtownabbey has had the lowest rates increase in Northern Ireland.”
He paid tribute to his group which he said has “taken the brunt of unfair criticism”.
Sinn Fein group leader Councillor Michael Goodman said that the voluntary redundacies and “cost-saving measures” have had an impact without any reduction in delivery of service.
However, he warned that a future rates increase may be “inevitable” and service delivery may be affected.
Michelle Weiir, Local Democracy Reporter
At a special meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council yesterday (Monday), councillors agreed increases of less than 1 per cent on both business and household rates.
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