Antrim Alliance Councillor Alan Lawther has said local ratepayers are rightly incensed that they will receive a minimum 10% rate increase before the local services receive an extra penny. He said it should be clarified that Central Government, not local councils, is imposing the hikes.
Cllr Lawther stated: “A 10% rise in rates is needed to pay for the policies imposed by the direct rule ministers, not one penny of which will go towards improving local services and a good portion of it is going to supporting a non working Stormont Assembly. It is high time our MLAs got back to work and justified their salaries by making local decisions for local people and being accountable for them.
“At Antrim Borough Council this week we had a difficult committee meeting, trying to set the rates for the coming year. I questioned council officers about many of the planned spending plans trying to get them reduced without impacting on the quality of service delivered. The Chief executive assured me that the budget set was challenging but I am not completely convinced and I intend ask further questions on behalf of ratepayers.
“Of particular concern to me is why, when we approved the employment of a purchasing officer, on the basis that he or she would bring savings over and above their cost of employment, these savings do not seem to be included in the budget and also why the new council offices are so expensive to run.
“The cost of utilities seems huge compared to the older offices and I feel embarrassed that there were no green alternative sources of heating used in them which would have reduced the running costs.
“Antrim has been in the fortunate position of having a high growth in the rates it receives thanks to the many new businesses and homes in the area so I hope the council can keep its increase as low as possible. A 10% increase, based on a flawed system where the value of your house determines what you pay will cause hardship in many cases.”