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Council's rates hike is the last straw for public

While the nation's media and the general public's thoughts have been distracted by policing and justice, Belfast City Council chose their moment well to announce a 3.5% hike in the rates.

While the announcement went largely unheralded, the consequences for hard-pressed homeowners and pensioners are immense.

Many young people with children are already struggling to feed their families and deal with their mortgage at a time when they have taken either no rise in salary or, indeed, a reduction.

Of course, this is a language alien to Belfast City Council. My own rates as a pensioner are now far above the mortgage payments I made as a working man.

After a working life burdened by a mortgage, is it fair that council rates create an even more onerous drain on my income?

I doubt that the well-upholstered bottoms that occupy Belfast's luxurious council chamber would understand any of these problems. No doubt if you asked, you would hear councillors worked tirelessly to keep the rate rise down to 3.5% and that we, as ratepayers, are lucky the rise was not higher.

If the money was only going on much-needed frontline services and to the hard-working men and women who clean our streets, lift our waste and keep the drains working, the bill would be much lower. Last year the council gave away some £4m pounds to hundreds of 'needy causes' which included foreign language associations, sports clubs, Indian, Chinese and Islamic centres, the PSNI and a bodybuilders' summer scheme.

How is this justified - and when will we, the mugs who foot the bill, say: enough is enough?

JOHN WILSON

Belfast

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