The new ABC Council has struck it first ever rate with Banbridge ratepayers seeing a small increase in their annual bill.
Councillors have jointly agreed a new domestic rate of 0.4000 and a non-domestic rate of 24.2011.
This will increase the average domestic rate bill across the new council area by £7.50 per year or £0.14 per week.
Non domestic ratepayers will see changes to their bills as a result of the revaluation exercise carried out centrally by the Department of Finance and Personnel, the council’s element of the non-domestic bill will increase by 1.78%.
The figure will mean different things for people in different parties of the new council area. Ratepayers in Armagh will actually see their rates bill drop slightly, while there will be little or no difference for ratepayers in the former Craigavon constituency.
However, it is in Banbridge, where rates bills were previously lower than the two other council areas, where bills will show a noticeable increase.
Councillors representing constituents across the new council area have for the last number of months been involved in what the council has called a “thorough examination” of the annual budget and of the resources available to the new council.
Presiding chair of Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, Councillor Darryn Causby commented, “All those involved in the process have been extremely mindful of the difficult balance that needed to be struck between providing high quality services and protecting our ratepayers from increasing bills.
“This has been a very challenging rate setting process for the new council. Not only have we had to address issues of rates convergence across the three council areas but we have also had to deal with budget cuts from Stormont and reduced budgets for transferring services.”
Mr Causby believes it has struck the right balance between not impinging on ratepayers while also investing in services. It has also emerged that the council will honour any capital programmes already approved by the three councils.
“Council believes this modest increase strikes the right balance of improvements in front line services and a continued programme of capital investment,” he added.
“While economic challenges remain, the new council, which will be the largest outside Belfast with a population over 200,000 residents and a budget of £85m, is committed to providing high standards of service, capital investment projects to help create a strong hub of sustainable employment and facilities that every resident and visitor can enjoy.”