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Belfast households facing £2 per month increase in rates bill

Households across Belfast can expect to see their rates bills increase by an average of £2 each month after the council decided on a new rate for the coming year.

The overall percentage increase for ratepayers across Belfast for 2010/11 is 3.35% for the average household, which Belfast City Council voted for unanimously at a meeting last night.

With departmental costs set to rise by just 0.59%, rates bills could have been even lower but for the need for the council to build up its reserves in line with advice from the local government auditor.

One of the key factors in the depletion of the reserves relates to changes in the rate base after the rate estimate had been fixed for 2007/08 which resulted in £4m having to be repaid to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers, a member of the council’s policy and resources committee, said members would have liked to have implemented a lower rise but were concerned it would impact on front-line services.

“Like other statutory bodies and businesses we are under tremendous financial pressure and I think this represents a very good deal for our hard-pressed ratepayers,” he said.

Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley, chairman of the strategic policy and resources committee, said: “We have kept this rates rise down to an absolute minimum of less that 50p per week against the backdrop of rising costs and a drop in income.

“It is vital that councillors show responsible leadership during these economically stringent times by striking the balance between investing in the city and providing efficient value-for-money services.”

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