Dungannon ratepayers worst hit by council merger rates rise
DUNGANNON businesses and householders could face a one-off rates hike of up to 7 percent in addition to their annual rates rise after the creation of the Mid-Ulster supercouncil in 2015, it has emerged.
Latest figures released by the Department of Social Development show that currently Dungannon rates are among the lowest in Northern Ireland, and signifcantly lower than those in Cookstown and Magherafelt.
Dungannon’s average household rates bill stands at £687, with Cookstown’s at £767 and Magherafelt at £740.
Business rates in Dungannon are on average 4 percent lower than those in Cookstown and 2% less than those in Magherafelt.
Magherafelt council has a record of striking some of the highest rates rises in recent years, with ratepayers in the borough absorbing hikes of up to 8 percent.
Under the Review of Public Administration (RPA), Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt will merge in April 2015, the boundary for which was approved by the Assembly on June 12.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has announced that the different rates set by individual councils will be averaged out by the new supercouncil.
However, businesses and householders in Dungannon have reacted strongly to the possibility of an extra rates hike, saying that the charges are already crippling many local businesses.
In fact, the situation is so bad it has been claimed that some retailers are now paying more in rates than in rent.
Chairman of Dungannon Traders Association Stephen Mohan called on the councils not to penalise retailers and local businesses. “Dungannon businesses would resist any rates hike as a result of this merger. In the past few years we have lobbied Dungannon Council to ensure that the local rates have been frozen and have been very successful in keeping rates rises to a minimum.
“We would want to enter into a discussion with the new merged council to ensure that the Dungannon model is replicated in the other council areas.
“We feel that we are paying too much as it is in terms of rates, which were set during the boom years, and no longer are an accurate reflection of a property’s worth.
“Property valuations have hit rock bottom, yet we haven’t seen a corresponding decrease in rates. We want to see a correction in the rates valuation, rather than a rise.”
Mayor Councillor Phelim Gildernew allayed concerns by saying: “Like many other issues the rates will have to be worked out in the lead up to the Review of Public Administration and as always the Councillors from the Borough will strive to achieve the best outcome possible for their constituents”.
UUP Councillor Walter Cuddy, who has been involved in the transition committee overseeing the merger, said that local people should not be afraid of a dramatic increase in rates.
“We at Dungannon Council have been keen to keep expenditure as low as possible, and have managed not to raise the rates for the past three years.
“We were the only council in Northern Ireland able to do this.”
However, he said he was convinced that Cookstown and Magherafelt shared the same low-cost ethos.
“I don’t believe rates will rise very much, although they are higher in those council areas”, he said. “I think it will be a good marriage that will not come as a financial shock to anyone.
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Weather for Dungannon
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: South east