In what has been one of the most challenging rates setting processes ever faced by local government, Mid Ulster District Council has held its rate increase to below inflation to 7.3% for domestic customers, while the non-domestic rate increase was held at 4.32%.
The decision, made at a special meeting of the Council yesterday – February 6 – means that an average domestic ratepayer will pay an additional 62p per week more for the Council portion of their rates bill.
Against a history of keeping district rate increases among the lowest in the region for many years, the continuing difficult financial climate, high levels of inflation, rising global costs of energy, and most significantly, a shortfall in central government funding received by the Council through the Rates Support Grant meant setting a realistic budget that minimised the impact on local people was extremely difficult.
The Council faces extreme financial pressures in 2023-2024, amounting to more than £10M in comparison to 2022-2023, with significant increases in payroll due to local and national pay agreements reached in 2022 and expected in 2023, as well as energy and fuel costs impacting on the figure.
A proposed mix of savings, efficiencies, and increased income generation of approximately £4.75M has been identified to offset the additional costs and minimise the impact on ratepayers; while remaining focused on delivering the essential services residents expect, as well as reflecting what residents value the most.
While continuing to deliver on these essential services, the in-coming year will see the Council continuing to deliver its capital programme for the benefit of residents and business communities with projects spanning investment in village renewal, town centre regeneration, and play and leisure upgrades.
2023 will see the completion of the £5 million ‘Connecting Pomeroy’ project, funded by the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The scheme is ambitious and multi-faceted, enhancing the look and feel of the centre of the village, creating a suite of new community facilities, and boosting outdoor and cross-border opportunities through the development of an iconic ‘magic forest’.
At the same time, Maghera is set to benefit from £9 million Levelling Up funding to support economic growth and drive regeneration in the town.
In addition, on-going investment in play and leisure facilities as part of the Council’s 5-year Play Strategy are also planned in the year ahead.
For more information visit www.midulstercouncil.org/rates
For advice on rates, housing benefit and rates relief visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/rates-help