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Causeway Coast and Glens Council bumps rates by 7.65%


Portrush air show is the first of the high-profile casualties

Portrush air show is the first of the high-profile casualties

Portrush air show is the first of the high-profile casualties

Cash-strapped Causeway Coast and Glens council on Thursday night voted through a domestic rate increase of 7.65% — and agreed to freeze business rates.

The council has been under pressure to cut services after it was revealed that it was at least £69m in debt.

Causeway Coast and Glens council had already announced cuts to services — with more under consideration.

This year’s Portrush air show is the first of the high-profile casualties.

After the council withdrew its £240k grant support, the organisers said the event could not take place.

The Air Waves event is one of the tourism highlights of the year on the North Coast, attracting people from across the country to watch the breathtaking aerial displays. Around 100,000 people regularly attend.

Other measures taken to address the financial crisis include the closure of popular tourist destination Waterworld, with a predicted annual saving of £80,000.

Car parking charges are also set to be introduced at various locations across the borough.

The council is also considering moving from fortnightly to monthly black bin collections, worth an estimated £400,000 saving annually.

Speaking after Thursday night’s meeting, Ulster Unionist Deputy Group Leader Richard Holmes said: “This has been one of the most difficult rates setting processes we have been through.

“Tough decisions have had to be taken to reduce costs and raise additional income, which we know will not be popular. But we must ensure council services continue to be delivered.

“Causeway Coast and Glens has significant debt of £69m — but is by no means the most indebted council in Northern Ireland.

“Reserves are within guidelines and even after this significant rates increase we still have one of the lowest rates increases since the 2015 council amalgamation across Northern Ireland.”

Glens Independent Councillor Padraig McShane said a “rates strike of this magnitude is deeply regrettable”.

“It has attached incredibly high risk when factored alongside our prudential indicators. With the irresponsible striking of this rate without a forensic audit showed council had a lot to hide from the rate payers.

“The council’s overall debt is now beyond £80m — a rise of £11m. To service that debt it now cost annually, £10,300,000 — or the price of a medium sized leisure centre,” he said.

Cuts of £2.2m — including the air show — were agreed at a council meeting on Wednesday night — a decision which one councillor said would mean a £2.5m loss to the borough.

Alliance Councillor Chris McCaw said the event brings in around £2.5m in revenue to the Portrush area every year, but that councillors had been left with no choice but to make the difficult decision.

Last month councillors called in the Audit Office to the council after the scale of its debt mountain was revealed —prompting fears that a massive 15% rates hike could be needed to stay afloat.

Belfast Telegraph