‘Striking of rate an opportunity for investment’

Guildhall Square, Derry.
Guildhall Square, Derry.

The Sinn Féin Group on Derry City & Strabane District Council has described the striking of the rate as ‘an opportunity for investment whilst protecting ratepayers against excessive increases.’

Sinn Féin Councillor Maolíosa Mc Hugh said: “Whilst the striking of this rate takes place within a challenging environment for Strabane ratepayers, we have worked hard to ensure that the correct balance is struck between keeping the rise to a minimum while at the same time making the necessary provision for the real opportunity to move decisively forward in delivering an ambitious list of projects for Strabane district.

“Due to the in-year savings that have resulted from the Amalgamation, it has enabled us to pass on a percentage of these savings to ease the rates burden and our efforts, combined with that of 7 other Councils, forced the Minister Mark H Durkan to restore the severe cut that he imposed on the Rates Relief Grant last year. As a result the rise this year is a substantial reduction on last year’s rise.

“Whilst we are conscious that Strabane ratepayers have borne the brunt of the two councils converging, the rates rise differential of 1.93 (Derry) and (2.5 Strabane) represents a reduction on last year- a reduction which will continue until full convergence across the District happens within the next couple of years when the benefits of amalgamation will become more evident year-on year and we believe the striking of this year’s rate is a major step forward in the right direction.

“Amongst the initiatives we will be progressing over the next financial year include the construction of a new leisure centre for the town, play provision for the rural areas, a Public Realm scheme and footbridge for Strabane town centre and significant investment in festivals.”

Sinn FéinCouncillor Paul Fleming said: “Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the rates should present council with an opportunity for investment without being punitive for domestic ratepayers and businesses.

“This strategic approach has given us the opportunity to prioritise over the coming period the construction and refurbishment of new and existing community centres, the development of a business case for a new state of the art leisure facility to replace the present Templemore complex and the continual improvement to frontline services.

“This year’s rates also allow us to make provision for the demands which will arrive as we finalise the Community Plan.

“As the largest party it is Sinn Fein’s intention to provide the positive strategic leadership which will adequately deliver for the ratepayers of the Derry City & Strabane District Council area. We believe this year’s rates provision allows us all to move forward confidently and with real purpose.”