Council strikes new rate

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Members of Derry City Council met on Monday to agree a 1.98% increase in the annual rates, which for the second consecutive year, is the lowest rates increase ever recorded for the city.

The Chairperson of the Policy and Resources Committee, Paul Fleming said the increase represented in real terms 31 pence increase per week to the average residential ratepayer. He said that in setting the rate, Derry City Council was very conscious of the very challenging economic conditions for ratepayers and had worked to ensure the increase was kept to a minimum, with the enhancement of Council’s service provision a key priority.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Fleming said: “The 1.98% increase will realise the opportunity to invest and deliver a capital programme of circa £70 million, having previously allocated £3.8m from the Capital Fund to the City of Culture. Council’s contribution to City of Culture has leveraged in DCAL funding of £12.6m and other funding of approximately £4.3m while local businesses are availing of the business opportunities that City of Culture will bring in 2013 and beyond.”

Councillor Fleming added that Council’s key strategic approach to the rates process was to achieve a balance between investing for the future and keeping the increase as low as possible whilst at the same time providing vital local and regional services. “Council has successfully held its own controllable expenditure at 0.21%. This was achieved through efficiency savings and when you consider that improvement initiatives represent 2.3%, the district rate increase of 1.98% reflects in real terms a 0.32% reduction,” he said.

In relation to the capital and regeneration programme, Mr Fleming said that several significant capital investment programme of circa £70m were currently underway including the Guildhall Restoration, Culmore Landfill Restoration, the North West Regional Sports Campus, Brooke Park, Foyle Greenway Connect 2, and rural play parks.

“Today members agreed to allocate an initial £12.7m from its Leisure Development Fund for a rebuild of Templemore Sports Complex. The next step forward for this project will be for Council to commission an Outline Business Case to inform the best design that will maximise income opportunities and inform overall cost and balance funding options.

It is proposed that the remaining £1m within the Leisure Development Fund will be ring-fenced for community projects and a cross agency community facility review will help to identify and prioritise projects.”

He added that Council planned to fund a number of non recurring expenditure bids of £892,200 out of savings in the Leisure Development Fund loan charge budget for 2012/13 to deliver a number of priorities in the Corporate Plan (2011-2015) including £70,000 for the One Plan Capacity Fund with the remaining spend going towards growing the digital economy (super connected city and a Local Economic Development Project), which is one of the catalyst projects within the One Plan that the Council is leading on, and the Clinical Translational Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund.

Mr Fleming said he was pleased to report a continued decrease in the funding for the City of Derry Airport (CODA), by £145,900 (6.6%), saying it showed the successful partnership in implementing operational efficiencies and by extra commercial income on fuel sales, car parking, car hire and concessions, all of which have been positive developments for this important regional asset.

He said route expansion remained a key priority and CODA was currently well positioned to exploit any opportunities that may arise when the economy recovers.

Members were also advised that both the domestic regional and non-domestic regional rate for 2013-2014 is expected to increase by 2.7% while the latest inflation rate is 2.7%.