Rates across the borough are set to increase by 1.97 per cent – about 19p a week for the average householder.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has today (Monday) agreed the increase in domestic and non-domestic rates for 2022-2023, to take effect from April 1.
This represents an additional 19p per week in the average domestic rates bill – or £9.79 in total for the year – and an increase of £13 per month, or £156 per year for the average business.
ABC Council says “this modest increase reflects the new budget set for 2022-23, and takes into consideration the unprecedented situation faced by residents and businesses due to the significant increase in energy and transportation prices, and the cost of living”.
The agreed increase, it says, is necessary to ensure effective service delivery and continued public enhancements can be achieved, including the future delivery of over £19 million in capital investment to stimulate the local economy and the delivery of a comprehensive Recovery and Growth Framework for the borough post Covid-19.
Lord Mayor Glenn Barr, said: “The rate struck is well below the current rate of inflation, at present running at 5.4%, and is marginal in comparison to the significant increase in energy costs.
“The Council has tried to absorb as much of these costs as it can and in the face of other unavoidable pressures such as the new Health and Care levy.
“Members and officers have worked hard to strike a rate that recognises the difficulties being faced by local communities and businesses post pandemic. That is why this decision represents a balanced and prudent approach, which will ensure that capital investment across the borough is maintained, and that vital public services are protected and improved for every citizen.”
Council says investment in strategic recovery and growth for the borough is a key priority, with a specific focus on local employment and regeneration projects planned for the year ahead. Other key priorities include a focus on Health and Wellbeing, Community Development projects, major public realm works continuing to be rolled out in key towns, and parks and open spaces continuing to benefit from a major, transformational investment programme.
Deputy Lord Mayor Jackie Donnelly, said: “I am pleased that following robust debate the Council has agreed a budget that will keep any increase and burden on our ratepayer to an absolute minimum, while prioritising continued improvements to service delivery and public facilities for our citizen’s.
“Councillors across all parties are exceptionally aware that citizens and businesses within the borough have faced significant challenges over the past two years due to the pandemic and other inflationary rises.
“It is our hope that this modest increase in the annual rates will aid the continued delivery of a diverse programme of capital investment, economic recovery and growth, and support the wellbeing of all our citizens.”
Council has ambitious plans for the borough including the bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025. This culture-led regeneration project is providing a step change for local and regional inward investment for the borough, further developing the potential for major investment projects such as South Lake Leisure Centre, in Craigavon, that has been a catalyst for growth for the local economy.
Key investment in urban and rural regeneration will be delivered through the 2022-2023 capital investment programme, with a significant infrastructure project in Banbridge as part of the Public Realm Scheme that will deliver high quality enhancements to the current streetscape.
Additional works are also underway for Tandragee and Waringstown, along with heritage-led regeneration schemes in Armagh and Lurgan, and a Railway Enhancement scheme in Portadown.
Substantial investment will also be provided for the continued delivery of Council’s Play Strategy, additional investment in the replacement of all artificial pitches across the borough, and further infrastructure developments at Gosford Forest Park to enhance the iconic play and glamping areas as a major visitor attraction for the borough.
Citizens, council says,R will also benefit from enhancements to service delivery that will priorities investments in renewable and sustainable technologies, such as additional electric charging points and low energy lighting, and support through an Inclusive Community Growth Strategy for all communities across the borough.