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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Residents and businesses brace themselves for “devastating” rates hike in Mid & East Antrim

Ballymena town centre

Residents and businesses in Mid and East Antrim are bracing themselves for a a “devastating” rates hike of at around ten per cent when the borough council meets to strike a rate for the next financial year on this evening, Monday 12th February.

According to an elected member who wished to remain anonymous, councillors have been told that the lowest possible rate will “exceed a 10 per cent increase”.

Increased charges for services are also likely to be on the cards.

The unnamed elected representative claimed that a potential rise of up to 19 per cent had been put forward initially.

Mid and East Antrim has a shortfall of £7.2m in its finances. It is understood that recent car park charges, which are due to be reversed, failed to bring in expected revenue.

Last week, the council indicated that it will be dropping charges at two car parks in Larne, Circular Road East and Exchange Road and three in Ballymena, two at Mount Street and one at Broughshane Street.

Smiley Buildings, one of the council’s main civic buildings, in Larne, is on the market with an asking price of £350,000.

In a statement, the unnamed councillor said:

“Councillors have focused on vanity projects such as preserving free car parking in Carrickfergus and Larne rather than addressing the council’s financial crisis.

“At a time when other councils across Northern Ireland are poised to implement rates increases of between four and eight per cent, Mid and East Antrim councillors have been told the lowest possible rate will exceed a 10 per cent increase.”

The statement also said that this will “represent a devastating increase that will cause struggling residents and businesses to suffer”.

“Elected members will find it difficult to face their constituents if they choose to impose such an increase during an ongoing cost of living crisis”, the source claimed.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts has warned councillors against imposing a rise “anywhere near a ten per cent rise”.

“Businesses here in Northern Ireland pay the highest rate of anywhere in the UK. It would be a major mistake to go anywhere near a ten per cent plus rise.

“Why is it that in other parts of the UK, small businesses are getting rates reductions while in Northern Ireland, we get significant increases. It would be a major mistake to go anywhere near that sort of a rise.”

He went on to say that questions have to be asked why Retail NI members in Mid and East Antrim should be faced with a blll of this size.

Larne businessman Tom McMullan commented:

“I think MEABC urgently need to get their costs and their financial management under control.”

He claimed that Mid and East Antrim’s business rates have been  among the highest in the UK.

“This has undoubtedly contributed to the high level of commercial vacancy and indeed dereliction in Larne,” he added.


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