Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Belfast ratepayers face £20 hike

Councillors unanimously agree annual increase of 2.95%

Householders in Belfast will face an average hike of at least £20 in their annual rate bill.

The rise comes as Belfast city councillors unanimously agreed a 2.95% increase on the district rate. This will be added to the regional rate when it is struck.

The decision was made during a specially convened meeting at Belfast City Hall last night and will add around £20 to the annual rates bill for a four-bedroom detached house.

This is the second lowest rates rise in a decade — with figures for 2007/08 slightly lower.

It had been feared that district rates could jump by 4.5% after members were told two weeks’ ago they would have to claw back £3.5m because of an inaccurate forecast from the Land and Property Services (LPS).

In October the council had been informed that the difference between the forecast of rates income and the actual income for 2010/11 was £575,000, and set its rate accordingly.

However, at the 11th hour it was given a revised figure, which revealed the £3.5m gap, causing a knock-on effect for 2011/12.

Hence the decision to strike the rate was deferred from last Wednesday's full meeting.

Addressing the chamber last night, the DUP’s Ian Cozier, chair

man of the strategic policy and resources committee, said: “Last week we gathered in anticipation that while we might not have so much good news, we definitely would not have bad news for the people of Belfast, because as political parties we had all agreed to set the lowest level of rates increase in 10 years.

“Unfortunately, we received news from the LPS that we would be facing a significant financial challenge and because of their difficulty in being able to forecast, we were going to have to claw back £3.5m. We had to seriously re-evaluate our position.”

It is understood that over the past week-and-a-half council officials have attended at least 50 meetings. Last Friday the chairman of the LPS was hauled in to explain his organisation’s failure to properly forecast the rates income for Belfast.

Mr Crozier said: “It is clear that all parties in this council wanted to protect ratepayers and to safeguard frontline services provided by this council, as well as provide some measure of investment for the future of this city.”

The council is now expected to press ahead with £15m of capital investment schemes to improve pitch provision and upgrade the Mary Peters track, which comes on top of an £80m investment in projects such as the Lyric Theatre and Titanic Signature Project over the past five years.

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