Belfast Telegraph

£30m rate subsidy in council merger

A £30 million scheme to keep rates bills down when large "super-councils" are formed in April has been announced by Stormont's Finance Minister.

Some businesses and householders would have faced "sudden and excessive" increases in their bills if being moved from a council area with existing low rates into one with higher rates, Simon Hamilton said.

A reduced 11 new local authorities with enhanced powers are set to be established through mergers of current bodies.

Mr Hamilton said: "The scheme will alleviate sudden and significant increases in district rates arising out of the creation of the 11 new councils next year."

Support will be phased over the four-year term of the councils, with an 80% reduction on the increased portion of the bill next year, followed by a subsidy of 60%, 40%, and 20% in the remaining years of the scheme.

There are more than 500,000 ratepayers in Northern Ireland and the discount will benefit more than 200,000 of those, domestic and non-domestic, located in areas where district rates are relatively low. Discounts will be automatically applied to the district rate shown on the rate bill from next year for the life of the scheme and there is no need for anyone to claim it.

The minister added: "This scheme model received broad support in the consultation exercise and I am pleased that we have been able to utilise the funding available to reflect that preference, particularly given the unprecedented pressure on public finances over the next few years."

The new organisations are due to replace 26 district councils and will have responsibility for local planning, housing repairs and demolition.

The new councils are Antrim and Newtownabbey; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon; Belfast; Causeway Coast and Glens; Derry and Strabane; Fermanagh and Omagh; Lisburn and Castlereagh; Mid and East Antrim; Mid Ulster; Newry, Mourne and Down; and North Down and Ards.

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