Boost as zero rate confirmed

Joe Nelson.
Joe Nelson.

Craigavon’s councillors struck a zero rate increase on Monday night and promptly declared that they had done everything in their power to ease the financial burden on the ratepayer.

As predicted in the Portadown Times several weeks ago, the council was able to ensure ratepayers will face no increase to their bill.

Councillor Joe Nelson, chairman of the council’s Estimates Working Group, praised the council staff who worked to achieve the figure.

“This is good news for ratepayers in Craigavon. Hard-working families continue to feel the pinch as the economy recovers at a snail’s pace and it is important that council takes steps to lessen the burden,” he said.

“As chair of the Estimates Working Group we have introduced more efficient business processes, regained control of high rates of absenteeism and focused on costs of other services including the spiralling costs of legal advice. We have managed this while still maintaining a capital investment programme to improve existing services. I am delighted that this top-down approach has resulted in the best outcome for ratepayers.”

DUP group leader Carla Lockhart outlined some of the cutbacks that made the 0 per cent rise possible.

“We have ensured that fat is cut from the system with simple changes such as, no food before council meetings, putting a halt to councillors’ junkets, something that was all too prevalent in the olden days.

“We have also tackled the big issues such as recycling and endeavouring to reduce the tonnage of waste being disposed of and charged to council. We have also tackled and remoulded the services that were not delivering and costing the ratepayer a fortune, such as the cafés within our facilities.”

Ulster Unionist Ken Twyble voiced his delight while DUP Alderman Gladys McCullough, chairman of Craigavon Borough Council’s Policy & Resources Committee, said it was impressive that the rates freeze could be achieve while the council proceeded with major investment with a new leisure centre, transformation of the People’s Park and public realm works in Lurgan.

“This is a fantastic result for our ratepayers and reflects both the prudent housekeeping of Craigavon over the last seven years where we’ve been able to save £5m,” she said.

Sinn Fein also welcomed the move and said it had worked hard to ensure there was no unnecessary expenditure.