Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council last night voted to freeze domestic and non-domestic rates for a record fifth consecutive year.
The decision makes it the first council in Northern Ireland to maintain a zero increase for half a decade and marks the last time that the council, in its current form, will set the district rate ahead of amalgamation with Cookstown and Magherafelt in 2015.
Rates in the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough are the lowest in the three areas that will make up the Mid-Ulster region and the Council said the five-year freeze had delivered significant savings for residents and businesses without affecting the quality or reach of services.
Had they had increased in line with inflation since 2009, domestic and non-domestic rates would now be 16.9% higher, but still less than in some other council wards.
Sean McGuigan Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council said:
“It is very pleasing to be making a small piece of history with our last rate setting and it further bolsters the legacy of this Council. Councillors and officers have worked closely on developing our efficiency programme and while that has been one of the main catalysts for the rates freeze, our achievements are not limited to reducing costs.
“This Council has maintained the high standards and services our ratepayers expect, while council-led initiatives have successfully attracted investment, created new jobs and supported economic recover. There is a wave of positive transformation rippling through the Borough and the new council will have a responsibility to sustain that momentum.
“In tough times this Council has worked hard to relieve the burden faced by businesses. This region is the second largest industrial base outside Belfast and has long been a hotbed of innovation and enterprise. During difficult years we’ve looked carefully at how we can provide meaningful support to protect and stimulate business development. The Dungannon model is one that all councils should be studying as they consider how new structures can best deliver for ratepayers.”
District rates are set each year by individual councils to meet the costs of local services, including leisure and recreational services, economic development, and environmental services.
Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said:
“I welcome Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council’s decision and longstanding commitment to support business during tough times. It’s good news for the vibrant hub of retailers in the area who have weathered economic uncertainty and reduced spending, yet continue to make this an attractive region to live, visit and shop.
“The Council deserves considerable credit for its responsible approach and for maintaining a zero increase for five consecutive years. They have struck a balance that has delivered for retailers and ratepayers and ensured the Borough continues to flourish and develop. I hope the commitment of this council can be taken forward into the new Mid-Ulster Council and others.”
In recent months, Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council launched a £1million investment plan aimed at boosting enterprise and entrepreneurship in the region and commenced work on a £2.2m public realm scheme which is due to be completed in July 2014.