Unionists ‘St Valentine’s Day massacre’ rates rise

Massive cuts to Castlereagh’s leisure and community services, and huge reductions in the arts, civic and economic development budgets have been predicted by Alliance after the Council accepted a rates rise of 9p in the pound.

The Alliance group on Castlereagh Council voted against the DUP/UUP proposed rate, which will mean council job losses. However, at the same time, the UUP and DUP, which have continually hung on to the top posts in the Borough, have INCREASED spending on the Mayor’s allowance.

The major impact of the new rate will be:

·the closure of the Council’s only main swimming and diving pool for up to two years at the Robinson Centre

·the closure of the municipal golf course at Gilnahirk for up to two years

·closure of the Dungoyne Community Centre

·an end to funding for Greenway Community Centre

·the Arts budget more than halved to £25,000

·the Economic Development budget cut by almost 85% or £150,000

·cuts on environmentally friendly technical services including 5% on recycling, and 20% on recycling disposal

·cuts to a severely curtailed number of summer schemes

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor Michael Long said: “Friday night saw a real Valentine’s Day massacre at the Civic Offices in terms of a reduction of services, increased rates and staff cuts. This is the result of the DUP having set an artificial rate for years that always focused on being the lowest rather than coming up with a strategy that avoids boom and bust scenarios. Alliance has consistently argued for a long-term strategy that would avoid this year’s problems, but our advice has been ignored.

“This year the chickens have all come home to roost and this rate will see huge cuts to leisure and community services. I must admit to my surprise at being the only Castlereagh Central Councillor to oppose a rate that will result in the extended closure of the Borough’s only proper swimming and diving pool at Montgomery Road. The DUP, UUP and PUP all voted for a rate that will ensure this happens.

“The Council may continue to meet its statutory obligations but for the DUP to describe Castlereagh as the ‘Premier Borough’ now looks like a sick joke.

“Sadly the biggest losers in this whole sorry saga will not even be the ratepayers but the many Council employees who now face losing their jobs.

Cllr Long concluded: “What really sickens me is that at the same time as the DUP and UUP were willing to cut services and jobs to reduce the rate, they unnecessarily increased the allowance for the Mayor, a position which the two parties have continued to carve up as part of their sectarian agenda.”


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