‘No need for the rates rise’ - DUP

Dungannon Council Offices
Dungannon Council Offices

Mid Ulster District Council had no need to increase the district rate, according to the leader of the DUP grouping Councillor Paul McLean.

The nationalist controlled council announced that it has held the rate to below inflation at 1.49 per cent, which equates to an increase of approximately 50p per month for an average ratepayer.

The council said that, despite continuing to operate in a climate which has seen no let-up in financial pressures, it has absorbed costs and applied efficiency savings to its budget to reduce the impact on local residents.

But Councillor McLean said in a statement after the meeting that the Council had recently won a court case which saw the rates support grant allocation increased.

“This increase not only gave a windfall of £5.8m, but based on this allocation Mid Ulster District Council are set to receive an additional £1.45m in the 19/20 budget,” he said.

“Therefore MUDC had no need to increase the rate.

“The DUP group proposal of nought per cent equates to £1.17m. Therefore there’s plenty of money from rates support to cover the rate.

“Furthermore the DUP group strongly believe that further monies are being squandered by Republican/Sinn Fein to further their own agenda.”

The Council said in retaining the same high quality services and facilities, the in-coming year will also see it continuing to deliver its capital programme, valued at over £70m, with projects spanning investment in town centre regeneration, village renewal, leisure upgrades and tourism.

The multimillion pound capital programme includes a £3.3m major public realm scheme for Coalisland to transform the town centre with new footways, parking and loading bays, stone kerbing, street furniture and tree planting, as well as improved lighting, drainage, traffic flow and parking. The project is largely funded by the Department for Communities with support funding from Council.

As well as embarking on a substantial re-fit and re-equipment of leisure centre gyms and spin studios, Dungannon Leisure Centre is to benefit from a £1.5m injection for refurbishment work.

Work to create the £1.25m Davagh Dark Skies Observatory and Visitor Centre, the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland, will also begin in 2019.

The new star-gazing experience, to include a visitor centre, complete with a virtual reality exhibition and telescope, is sited close to the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles, and will give visitors a unique opportunity to experience the night sky without light pollution.

Following confirmation of a funding offer of £5m from the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, the transformative ‘Connecting Pomeroy’ project, will also begin this year.

The scheme is ambitious and multifaceted, enhancing the look and feel of the centre of the village, creating a suite of new community facilities, and boosting outdoor and cross-border opportunities through the development of an iconic ‘magic forest’, will also begin in 2019.

Investment in communities will continue through the implementation of village regeneration plans, which are making real and tangible differences to communities across Mid Ulster.

Incorporating play park schemes, environmental improvements and enhanced community facilities, a total of 37 village renewal projects are being delivered across a 2 year period, representing £2.15m of capital investment under the Rural Development Programme.

SDLP Councillor Martin Kearney said: “Setting the local rate is about planning for the future, ensuring that investment and development of this Council area as a whole must continue. SDLP Councillors are committed to ambitious and progressive plans while keeping costs under control at all times especially in these uncertain times.”

His party colleague, Councillor Malachy Quinn said he welcomed the extra funding for local arts groups which had been cut by the Northern Ireland Arts Council (NIAC) last year.

“I’m delighted that Mid-Ulster Council has stepped up to the mark and have agreed to cover the funding that the NIAC cut last year. The arts are always the first on the receiving end when cuts are made but Mid-Ulster Council have shown tonight they are not only promoting the arts but also encouraging its development right across the area,” he said.

Both Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party were asked if they wished to comment on the new rate.