Super Council’s and Ratepayers Clash over Bills

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Figures from the Department of Finance have shown that up to 350,000 households in Northern Ireland have been affected by increased rates due to the formation of the super councils.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said that the people affected will be able to get a discount and that he will address the increases which are a direct result of the creation of the new councils.

Mr Hamilton said: “Differences have built up in the level of district rates chargeable by the old councils and those that will be chargeable under the new larger councils”.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said there is help for ratepayers
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said there is help for ratepayers

The executive has put aside £30 million to assist ratepayers.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood has previously said that more help is needed for ratepayers. Mr Attwood said: “The consequence of convergence is that the rate burden will change within the new council areas. If anyone is pretending otherwise they are not being fully honest with people.

“Thirty million was secured by me to help that transition, and if hard figures are coming in that say the burden is even greater than people might have anticipated, then there should be a budget discussion in order to help people to ensure there is no further burden placed upon them.”

The SDLP's ALex Attwood has criticised the lack of assistance for householders
The SDLP’s ALex Attwood has criticised the lack of assistance for householders

The District Rate Subsidy scheme only applies to domestic and non-domestic ratepayers in certain areas and the only exceptions are public bodies and social housing landlords where rates are already standardised.

Mr Hamilton continued: “The scheme will be of most benefit, however, to the 23,000 Lisburn, Castlereagh and North Down ratepayers falling within the new boundary of Belfast City Council, as well as around 30,000 ratepayers in Fermanagh that will be served by the new Fermanagh and Omagh Council.

“Typically, an average domestic ratepayer in these areas will receive a discount of around £40 or £50 off their rate bill this year.

“Castlereagh ratepayers who are moving into Belfast will, on average, get a discount of around £90.”

26 district councils have been replaced by 11 super councils
26 district councils have been replaced by 11 super councils

An elderly couple from Loughbrickland, who are under the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have seen their rates rise due to the new super council.

Mrs Graham said: “There are just so many bills to face it’s hard to cope to sometimes. I know there is a scheme to help but it will probably not make much difference. The councils need to think about the community when they decide to do these things because some of us just can’t afford any more bills”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) said: “The new councils are free to strike whatever rate they consider appropriate to meet their new expenditure needs.

“DFP expects that, where there is a significant disparity between the existing councils that are coming together, the new district rate will be struck at a level that lies between the existing district rates but DFP cannot control this in any way.”

Northern Ireland’s 26 district councils were replaced by 11 larger, super councils on the 1st April 2015 and while they continue to provide the same services as the previous councils they also have a number of new powers and responsibilities.

These include:

  • Off-street parking (except park and ride)
  • Local economic development
  • Community planning process
  • Control of alterations, extensions and demolition of listed buildings
  • Conservation area designation and management

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