40p per week hike for Londonderry ratepayers

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Londonderry’s councillors have agreed a 2.58 per cent increase in the annual rates.

Cllr Gerard Diver, Chairperson of the Policy and Resources Committee, said the increase, coupled with a regional rate increase of 2.7 per cent will result in an increase of 40 pence per week to the average residential ratepayer.

“The 2.58 per cent increase includes an additional £207k towards Council’s ambitious 5 year capital plan totaling over £115m over half of which will come from external sources,” he said.

“Our commitment to capital expenditure is part of our overall strategic approach in terms of investing in the future to ensure the city will see huge benefits in terms of regeneration and economic investment,” he added.

“Following completion of the £10m refurbishment of the Guildhall and Harbour House, the £1.4m Walled City Lighting Strategy project, the £2.5m Connect 2 Foyle Valley Greenway and Phase 3 of the City Cemetery expansion, Council has commenced work on the construction phase of the new £12m new multi-purpose arena at St Columb’s Park,” he added.

Mr Diver said this was a significant investment and just one of a number of exciting projects included in the 5-year capital plan which also includes £4.5m for the redevelopment of Brooke Park and outdoor performance area, £2m for new community facilities across the area, £8.5m for the implementation of the Pitches Strategy.

He explained that Council plans to build the Leisure Development Fund from its current £12.7m to £21.7m within three years and to lever the additional funding necessary to develop a new £35m Templemore Sports Complex.

“We also have ambitious plans to continue with the implementation of the £10.3m Foyle Valley Gateway Plan to include the development of the Daisyfield, Riverside Park and Brandywell, as well as £9.2m for the proposed development of a Maritime Museum and Archive Centre at Ebrington.”

Within this year’s rates estimates, Council has committed to a further investment of £3.2m in the legacy programme and Clipper events which will help lever funding from the NI Executive, Private Sector, Trusts and Foundations and Europe and continue to promote the city in a positive light throughout the world.

Council has committed additional funding of £343k within this year’s rates to its’ Marketing and Festivals section.

It’s rolling out a £2m super connected broadband programme over the next year and, following successful completion of the £10m restoration of the Guildhall and Harbour Museum, this year’s rates have made additional provision of £204k in staffing to ensure this facility can realize its’ full potential as a visitor attraction and conference facility.

Mr Diver added that that Council is also faced with significant recurrent and one-off uncontrollable cost challenges.

“One of the obligatory costs facing Council is the implementation of Single Status whereby an additional £1.3m has been set aside to cover one-off costs relating to past entitlement and £510k to cover the additional recurrent salary increases going forward.

“Council has also had to set aside £1.1m to fund costs associated with the establishment of the Shadow Council which will oversee the merging of Derry City Council and Strabane District Council. “

He said the annual subvention at City of Derry Airport has increased by 4.7 per cent this year, the first time there has been an increase in a number of years.

He explained: “The increase has come about following an increase in rates as a result of a re-evaluation of the Airport Estate and anticipated costs associated with the completion of airport vesting cases. In the absence of this one-off pressure, the subvention would have slightly reduced this year and, in cumulative terms, the subvention has reduced by £580,100 (14.3%) since incorporation of the Company in 2010.

“This has been achieved despite the difficult economic environment in which the Airport trades. Route expansion remains the key priority and the Airport is well positioned to exploit any opportunities that may arise following an extensive programme of capital investment by Council over the past few years.”

Further details about rates can be obtained by visiting www.derrycity.gov.uk/rates