‘Undemocratic’ system used in estimates, claim

Carrickfergus Borough Council has dipped into its financial reserves to help keep the district rate below that of inflation.

A 1.33 per cent increase was agreed at a special meeting of the local government authority on Wednesday of last week. The district domestic rate was struck at 0.3933 pence (from 0.3881 in 2013/14) and the non-domestic rate at 28.7542 pence (from 28.3757 in 2013/14).

The Mayor, Alderman Billy Ashe, said: “Carrickfergus Borough Council has invested heavily over the past financial year as part of the council’s ongoing investment strategy to improve the quality of life for our citizens. Council will be continuing this strategy moving forward into the new financial year, even with this extremely low increase in the domestic rate.

“Some of the projects featured in the strategy include the installation of new play park in Greenisland and enhancements to the existing play park in Legg Park, improvements to Bentra Golf Course and coastal path works at Quarry Cottages in Whitehead.

“I am pleased to announce that the total spend on capital projects for the incoming year will amount to £1,306,300. By utilising some of the council’s reserves, we are pleased at this minimal increase moving forward into the merger of Carrickfergus Borough Council with its counterparts in Ballymena and Larne despite having the burden of unavoidable costs beyond our control.”

This is the last rate that will be struck by Carrickfergus Council as next year the responsibility will fall to the new Mid and East Antrim District Council. Ballymena passed a 1.49 per cent rise and Larne a 2.75 per cent increase.

The Deputy Mayor, Councillor John Stewart, said: “I am pleased to see a figure below inflation and privileged to be part of the last rate process of Carrickfergus Borough Council.”

Meanwhile, independent Councillor Jim Brown refused to vote for or against the rate, claiming the “undemocratic” manner in which the two independent councillors and two Alliance members had not been included in the estimates committee of the DUP-led council “cannot be overlooked”.

“I could not vote for a system that I had not been party to,” added Councillor Brown afterwards.