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Mid and East Antrim firms primed for bounceback as council keeps rates low


Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed its lowest increase in rates – and the fourth lowest increase in Northern Ireland – to help the economy and society recover in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council – the only borough to take advantage of new legislation which allows the application of different rates, called decoupling – will increase non domestic/business rates by just 0.64% and household rates by just 0.99%.

By keeping business rates as low as possible, the council said it is aiming to help alleviate the financial pressures on companies throughout the borough which have had to operate in an increasingly challenging environment as a result of the pandemic.

The application of a minimal increase in rates will support them to rebuild their businesses and in turn kickstart an economic recovery across Mid and East Antrim.

The move is the latest in a raft of measures which the council has implemented since the start of the pandemic in an effort to help companies of all sizes and in all sectors to recover their pre-Covid lustre.

In the onset of the pandemic, Mid and East Antrim responded quickly to realign business support and to implement interventions to tackle the most immediate business needs, needs which altered on a daily basis as a result of ever-changing restrictions.

It has provided one-on-one support to over 1,700 businesses, provided 4,000 hours of mentoring support, delivered 700 Covid Retail Support Packs, established the Town Centre Recovery Taskforce, created a dedicated personal protective equipment (PPE) section on the council’s Buy and Supply portal, organised 47 webinars, three redundancy clinics and a virtual jobs fair offering over 3,000 vacancies.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, councillor Peter Johnston, said: “While we remain very much in an emergency situation, it is vital we continue as a council to work towards the recovery of our society post–Covid, and doing everything within our power to help our businesses as they begin to reopen, rebuild and ultimately prosper once again.

“With this in mind, we began our rates process back in August, and since then we have been working round the clock to identify savings and efficiencies, and ensure that the impact of rates on our citizens is minimised, while at the same time maximising the resource at our disposal to ensure vital support is available and that we can invest as required in our Borough and its infrastructure.

“Over the past year, I am proud we have continued to deliver a string of important capital projects and investment across our Borough, and I commend our chief executive Anne Donaghy OBE and her staff.”

The rates were proposed by chair of Policy and Resources Committee, alderman Robin Cherry MBE.

“In the year ahead, there will be major investment opportunities for Mid and East Antrim through the development of digital infrastructure and a hydrogen training academy in Ballymena, as well as the regeneration of St Patrick’s Barracks, establishing an Innovation Centre in the town,” he said.

“In the Larne area, there is the planned expansion of The Gobbins and new Sandy Bay pavilion, and in Carrickfergus, there will be the construction of a new Household Recycling Centre at Sullatober, as well as the beginning of the regeneration and renewal of the town centre.”

Mid and East Antrim’s average domestic rates bill will be £984 a year (Around 9p a week increase from previous year). Based on average capital value, this places homes in Mid and East Antrim’s rates bill fifth lowest out of Northern Ireland’s 11 council districts.

Likewise, the average business rates bill will be £12,006 (84p pence a week increase from previous year) in Mid and East Antrim, ranking the borough seventh lowest out of Northern Ireland’s 11 council districts based on average net annual value (NAV).

Council’s portion of the rates amounts to 49.1% of the rates bills received by residents and 53.7% of businesses rates bills in Mid and East Antrim, with the remainder of each set by the Stormont Executive.

More than £230m of additional business rates support from the Executive was confirmed on March 11, and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will continue to access any further grants for roll out to businesses.