Rates bill may not increase

Craigavon Lakes and Civic Centre. INPT24-300.
Craigavon Lakes and Civic Centre. INPT24-300.

Craigavon Borough Council is within sight of striking a zero rates increase when the final sums are collated for 2014-15 in mid-February.

The Portadown Times understands that the council’s estimates working group (EWG) has reduced the protracted increase from 4.5 per cent (or £1.6m) to 0.75 per cent (£250,000).

And with over a month to go, there is optimism that the zero will be reached – or even surpassed to a rates reduction.

Last year, when the council managed a below-inflation 1.59 per cent rise, the lowest increase in 16 years, Councillor Joe Nelson (SDLP) called for a zero increase for 2014-15, he cited the cost of “inefficient business processes, the council’s grievance culture, absenteeism and the spiralling costs of legal advice” as a clutch of reasons why the council failed to deliver the magical zero rise, pointing out that Belfast has managed a minus-two-per-cent figure.

He said, ”I proposed that we should set ourselves a challenge to set an aspirational increase of a zero rise for year 2013-14, even though we will start to feel the impact on rates of major projects like the new leisure centre and the costs of merging with Armagh and Banbridge councils under the Review of Public Administration (RPA).”

The new rate will be the last of Craigavon Borough Council before the merger, and the new super council will feel the impact of the debt accrued, especially by Armagh City Council.

The next rise, in 2015, will be up to the so-called ABC Council, with the elections in May this year, and the ‘shadow’ council in place.

This time, Mr Nelson is chair of the Civic Centre’s EWG, and he said he was optimistic that the zero would be achieved.

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