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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

MEA Council facing challenging decisions as rates set for 2023/24

Mid and East Antrim councillors approved a rise in domestic and non-domestic rates at a special meeting on Monday evening.

Households will see an increase of 5.43 per cent in the domestic rate after a rate of 0.4828 pence in the pound was agreed for 2023/24 households, meaning an average weekly rise of 53p, or £27.35 per year, from April 1.

Businesses can expect a rise of 5.9 per cent after a non-domestic rate of 34.1696 pence in the pound was set for the coming financial year which equates to an additional £7.45 or £387 per year.

Speaking at the meeting, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, said:

“Our focus as always has remained on striking a rate that protects frontline services, is sustainable yet allows us to develop.

“However, we fully recognise the difficult year that businesses and community have had in relation to the cost of living crisis, to the rising energy prices and of course, particularly, as we come out of the pandemic.”

The council says that cost savings in the year ahead will include reviewing use of its buildings and opening hours, including leisure and waste services and increasing charges. Levels of funding for major international events will also be reviewed.

Meanwhile, plans are continuing for the redevelopment of Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne after it was recently awarded £6.1 million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, which the council says it will also be supporting financially.

Carrickfergus Castle DUP Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said:

“I believe the officers and members have worked very hard to produce efficiencies and savings for our hard-pressed citizens at this very difficult time.

“All the difficulties householders face, this council faces as well. I believe the prudent rate-setting for many years here in Mid and East Antrim allows the council to deliver, what is in comparison to the rate of inflation, a modest increase at this time.”

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston said that it has not been an easy year for ratepayers or the council as a corporate body.

He went on to say that regarding this year’s capital plan, he wishes to see “significant changes to capital spend that delivers equally for the people of Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne”.

He added that “further neglect of the Seven Towers Leisure Centre is not acceptable and needs to be a priority for the next mandate of council”.

Ballymena SDLP Cllr Eugene Reid stated:

“This year like no other year was probably one of the most difficult processes to be involved in.

“We had to ensure that frontline services were delivered given the huge strains on our budget and rightly so demands for increased salaries.”

This is expected to amount to an additional £5m.

Cllr Reid indicated he would abstain from approving the increases.

Alliance group leader Coast Road Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna said it had been “an incredibly difficult year and there have been extremely difficult decisions to be made” and “taking into account the whole difficult cost of living crisis”.

Sinn Fein Coast Road Cllr James McKeown, group leader, said: “We are where we are. It has been a very challenging time not only for this council but for constituents and society in general. Reluctantly, we will support it.”


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