Council Agrees New District Rate for 2023-24

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Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has agreed an average increase in the district for 2023-2024 (April 1 – March 31) of 5.96% percent.

This represents the lowest rise struck in Northern Ireland for domestic rates for residents at an additional £0.47 pence per week, or £2.04 per month on the average domestic rates bill, and an increase of approximately £30.50 per month, or £366 per year for an average sized business within the borough. This increase reflects the stark reality of significant increases in operating costs due to unprecedented inflationary pressures, rising energy, contractual and staffing costs, and the wider ongoing economic uncertainty.

Over recent months, the Council has given maximum consideration to limiting the increase to ratepayers, striking a rate for domestic bill payers at less than half the current level of inflation. This has been achieved through budget reductions and the implementation of a substantial efficiencies review, however the Council acknowledges the impact this increase will have on residents and businesses, in addition to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

The agreed increase is necessary to ensure service continuity and public enhancements can be achieved, including the delivery of the £118million Capital Program, investment in the local economy, and the implementation of a programme of work for refuse collection and environmental services transformation.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Paul Greenfield, said:

“Never in the history of Council has Elected Members and Council officers faced as sharp an increase in the cost of living. The impact of high inflation together with unavoidable pressures regarding energy, fuel, contractual and salary increases has created a huge strain on the organisation and the 2023/24 budget.

“The Council has tried to mitigate against these significant financial pressures through the introduction of a transformation and efficiency process as well as reducing budgets to ensure vital public services, the local business economy and future investment plans are protected and revitalised into the future.

“The Council has undertaken a significant efficiencies review that is addressing cost saving within each Department to minimise the impact of tonight’s announcement on the ratepayer, generating a total of £2.6 million in budgetary savings’.

“I want to thank my fellow Members and Officers for their diligence in this process in striking the lowest possible rate for residents and businesses, in line with the significantly challenging financial situation the Council is facing.”

Key investment in urban and rural regeneration will be delivered through the 2023-2024 capital programme, with the scoping of infrastructure projects for Armagh City through the Armagh Place Plan and Reinvigoration projects. There will also be a continuation of the extremely successful Townscape Heritage and Empty to Occupy Scheme to support tourism and the local economy, in conjunction with the roll out of the Full Fibre Network project.

Significant gateway and wayfinding enhancements are planned for Banbridge, to complement the introduction of the new Public Realm scheme for the town. Major development works will also be progressed following last months £3.2 million Levelling Up fund announcement for F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio to include; a purpose built extension, improved gallery facilities, and the creation of a multi-use space.

Investment in Health and Wellbeing facilities and infrastructure remains a priority for Council. Borough wide investments will provide for the continued delivery of Council’s Play Strategy, additional investment in the replacement and upgrade of artificial pitches, and the development of new cycle infrastructure in Craigavon.

In partnership with the Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the Council has secured over £4 million pounds of funding for small rural settlement development projects across the borough, to enhance and support rural businesses and village communities.

Residents will also benefit from sustainable investments such as; the introduction of more electric charging points and a drive to lower energy costs across the borough. The Council is also funding a wide variety of support services in partnership with community organisations to provide £1.2 million cost of living support to those residents most in need, assisting communities with access to long term financial solutions through a coordinated approach.