MEA Council strikes rates aimed at backing businesses’ economic recovery post-Covid
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has struck business and household rates for the next financial year, aimed at boosting our economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with huge financial challenges caused by the health crisis, Elected Members and Council officers have worked hard since August to ensure increases to non-domestic/business and household rates for the new financial year have been kept to a minimum.
At a special meeting of Council on Monday evening (1 March), Elected Members agreed increases of less than 1% on both business and household rates, with Mid and East Antrim the only council in Northern Ireland to take advantage of the recent legislative changes which allow a different rate for businesses and households, known as decoupling.
This has enabled Council to strike a household rate of 0.4414, a 0.99%increase from the previous year, and a business rate of 31.1326, a 0.69%increase from the previous year, leaving both household and businesses with a less than 1% increase in rates.
The lower increase to business rates in comparison to the household rate increase acknowledges the forthcoming critical year for many of the Borough’s businesses, as Council works together with them to re-establish and grow.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused catastrophic damage to so many lives and livelihoods, not only in our Borough but right around the world.
“I am proud how our Council has been at the forefront of providing critical support and assistance to all our residents throughout the emergency, as well as standing shoulder to shoulder with our businesses through a wide range of initiatives and newly formed taskforces.
“The local economy has been heavily impacted as a result of the pandemic. Council has adapted and responded with a great deal of agility over the past 12 months and realigned business support and interventions to tackle the immediate business needs across our local economy. The difficulties in regards to turning on and off the local economy, coupled with the restrictions, has really challenged each and every business across our Borough.
“While we remain very much in an emergency situation, it is vital we continue as a Council to work towards the recovery of our society post-Covid, and doing everything within our power to help our businesses as they begin to reopen, rebuild and ultimately prosper once again.
“With this in mind, we began our rates process back in August, and since then we have been working round the clock to identify savings and efficiencies, and ensure that the impact of rates on our citizens is minimised, while at the same time maximising the resource at our disposal to ensure vital support is available and that we can invest as required in our Borough and its infrastructure.
“Over the past year, I am proud we have continued to deliver a string of important capital projects and investment across our Borough.”
The rates were proposed by Chair of Policy and Resources Committee, Alderman Robin Cherry MBE.
He said: “In the year ahead, there will be major investment opportunities for Mid and East Antrim through the development of digital infrastructure and a hydrogen training academy in Ballymena, as well as the regeneration of St Patrick’s Barracks, establishing an Innovation Centre in the town.
“In the Larne area, there is the planned expansion of The Gobbins and new Sandy Bay Pavilion, and in Carrickfergus, there will be the construction of a new Household Recycling Centre at Sullatober, as well as the beginning of the regeneration and renewal of the town centre.”
Vice-Chair of Policy and Resources Committee, Councillor Rodney Quigley, seconded the motion. He said:
“This is good news for our Borough. I commend the work of all our officers and our Elected Members for striking what is a fair, balanced and reasonable rate aimed at safeguarding our businesses and local economy and pave the way for recovery and prosperity as we move beyond the nightmare of Covid towards the brighter days that lie ahead.”
Mid and East Antrim’s average domestic rates bill will be £984 per annum (9 pence per week increase from previous year). Based on average capital value, this places homes in Mid and East Antrim’s rates bill 5thlowest out of NI’s 11 Council districts.
Likewise, the average business rates bill will be £12,006 (84 pence per week increase from previous year) in Mid and East Antrim, ranking the borough 7thlowest out of NI’s 11 Council districts based on average Net Annual Value.
Council’s portion of the rates amounts to 49.1% of the rates bills received by residents and 53.7% of businesses rates bills in Mid and East Antrim, with the remainder of each set by the Stormont Executive.
More than £150million of additional business rates support from the Executive is expected in 2021-22, and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will continue to access any further grants for roll out to businesses.