Cllr. Long has highlighted that currently the rates for an average house of £150000 are £85 per year lower than in Belfast with the difference rising to £114 for properties valued at £200000. Therefore ratepayers in Castlereagh moving into the new Belfast Council would likely face a rates hike of around 11% following any merger. He has asked for the Minister responsible to consider introducing a transitional period following the introduction of any new Council to avoid ratepayers facing another large hike in their rates on top of the other changes proposed by Government.
Cllr Michael Long said: “The difference between rates bills in Castlereagh and Belfast is a large sum of money. When these new super councils are introduced many people will be changing from Castlereagh to Belfast council, and will therefore face massive rates hikes, simply because of the drawing of a line on a map.
“This will mean that ratepayers in parts of Castlereagh, such as Cregagh, Braniel Belvior and Tulllycarnet could now be facing a quadruple rates whammy with this hike following on from the huge increase in the regional rate set by the Government in recent years, the proposed introduction of water charges and the change in the rating system from rateable to capital values which has already hit Castlereagh particularly hard. Now the proposed RPA changes could see a further rated hike of over 10% for local ratepayers which, on top of the other changes, is likely to be the final straw for many people, especially the elderly and those on lower incomes.
“I am now asking the Minister to look at this problem and consider introducing transitional arrangements which would avoid local people having to face any increase all at once. Any change must surely be phased in.
“This anomaly strengthens the case for scrapping the current rating system. Alliance believes that introducing a fair local income tax is the solution to this problem. It would be based on people’s ability to pay and would help older people and those on low incomes.
“We also know that the government wastes a £1 billion yearly on duplicating facilities instead of providing shared services, which would promote good relations and save cash. If this was addressed, Alliance believes that the need for the existing rates system could be reassessed.”