Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council today agreed a new annual district rate, which will result in an increase of 2.15 per cent for the Council area.
On the basis of average property valuations being lower than in other Council areas, the average ratepayer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area will continue to pay lower rates bills than average ratepayers in the majority of other Council areas.
The new Council has already in its first year been able to realise efficiencies of £1.132m which offset in entirety the impact of a number of significant financial challenges. Council has had to absorb a series of statutory pressures such as a 3.4% increase in national insurance costs, as well as make provision for budget shortfalls following the transfer of functions from Central Government. This Council has also taken the lead in implementing a living wage for all its employees ahead of the statutory living wage requirements.
The decision by Central Government to protect the Rates Support Grant for local Councils for 2016/17 has put the Council in a better position to make appropriate revenue and capital investments necessary to stimulate growth moving forward.
The increase will be channelled into a diverse range of new programmes and developments for the district which reflect Council’s ongoing commitment to growing and improving services for citizens. The additional investment will be directed towards Council’s emerging Community Plan and Investment Plan, and also towards the area of festivals and events which has been an area of significant success for the region in recent years.
Among Council’s priorities will be the enrichment of our tourism offering, with major events such as the Foyle Maritime Festival, NI Year of Food and Drink and the delivery of an exciting programme of cultural experiences throughout the district. There will also be a strong emphasis on growing business support alongside opportunities to sustain, promote and create jobs.
As part of the ongoing £64.4m Capital Investment Programme, and following the successful delivery of capital projects such as the Foyle Arena, Strabane Pedestrian Bridge and Melvin Leisure Centre, a number of major developments across the district are set to benefit. These include the regeneration of Brooke Park, and the Brandywell Stadium Redevelopment, as well as the enhancement of playpark provision right across the district.
Overall the increase will signify a 1.93% rise for ratepayers living in Derry and an increase of 2.5% for those living in Strabane. This amounts to an additional £15.34 per annum (29p per week) for an average Derry domestic ratepayer and £19.42 per annum (37p per week) for the average domestic ratepayer in Strabane.
The Mayor, Councillor Elisha McCallion, said Derry City and Strabane District Council had adopted a more long-term and strategic approach to the rates process, and there has been a huge shift towards investment for the future and building on the city and district’s growth potential.
“The Council has made significant progress in relation to its Community Plan which will require significant investment, part of which will include an ambitious capital plan consisting of new leisure developments community centre provision, parks and play provision, greenways and public realm and museum and visitor attractions. With this in mind Council was focused when striking the rate to take into account the medium and longer term funding requirements to ensure Council can deliver on these plans and aspirations.
“Moving forward a strategic high level plan has been developed to show how additional rates investment could result in significant progress being made towards aspirational projects and allow us to use it as a lever to secure additional funding from external sources.
The Mayor added: “Council has made huge strides in terms of realising efficiencies. Over the past nine months it has achieved £1.132m in efficiencies mainly through staff restructuring and other convergence initiatives. In the coming months, this efficiency process will continue with the aim of providing further funds towards growth aspirations and maximising value for money for ratepayers following the convergence of the two legacy Councils.
“At the centre of this strategy is economic, social and environmental regeneration, with specific emphasis this year on making additional provision to fund an ambitious investment programme across the entire new Council area. This will involve developing the city and regions festival and events that will improve the health and well-being of citizens and attract additional visitors into the city and district, and growing business support alongside opportunities to sustain, promote and create jobs.
“The new Council is committed to delivering improved, more efficient and customer-focussed services across the whole of the new Council area for all ratepayers and to work in partnership with communities, businesses, statutory agencies and all government departments to improve the quality of life of its citizens, as well as promoting and encouraging investment and driving growth and prosperity,” she concluded.
Further information on rates can be found www.derrystrabane.com/rates