Newry Mourne & Down Council Strike Rate of 1.59%
Councillor Willie Clarke, Group Leader for Sinn Féin on Newry Mourne & Down Council has commented on the striking of the District Rate at Monday evening’s Newry Mourne and Down Council District Council meeting.
After proposing the adoption of the rates’ proposal by council officers, he said: “Our discussions have concluded with all elected representatives agreeing to a District Rate which reflects this balance and the reality of the challenging times many are facing.
“Sinn Féin Councillors involved in Rates discussions have worked with all others, councillors and officials, to strike the right balance between protecting our front line services and where possible reducing our costs whilst delivering high quality, value for money services and investing in our District.
“This year has been particularly challenging with the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions.
“A strategic plan is now needed to build back better in the months and years ahead to support rate payers and businesses in these uncertain times. As such a COVID Recovery Group has been set up involving a cross-party body of representatives and officials.
“We welcome the financial support provided from the Department for Finance (DfI) and also the Department for Communites (DfC) which can be used to help mitigate the economic impact of Covid.
“Council finances have been scrutinised to ensure that we look to the impact future years rates and protecting capital projects, jobs and front line services.”
The Sinn Féin Mourne’s Councillor added: “Sinn Féin believe it is incumbent on all parties to work together for the benefit of the ratepayers and local businesses particularly in these continued challenging times.
“We must get all businesses back to work and part of this recovery should be ensuring that all front line workers’ jobs and services are protected and that a pay increase should be built into this.”
DUP Councillor William Walker in seconding the proposal for adoption concurred with Cllr Willie Clarke. Cllr Walker said that the Financial Working Group in Council had done ‘sterling work should be commended especially in these difficult times.”
The DUP councillor added: “Some councils have struck a much higher rate at 2%+ but we are well down that table which reflects the excellent work the Financial Working Group has done.
“It is encouraging that no projects will be cut as a result of their efforts. We will continue along these lines going into 2021-22.”
SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne agreed with Cllr Walker that the Financial Working Group had performed very well in making a huge effort “which is reflected in the rate being set at 1.59%.
Cllr Byrne added: “Council officers worked outside the box. It will never-the-less be a difficult time ahead, and my party are very much involved in this process.
“Projects such as the Downpatrick regeneration are still on the cards and we will have a difficult year ahead with a lot more work to do.”
Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown also agreed that the council officers had made an excellent effort in keeping the rate down below many other councils.
Cllr Brown said: “This has been achieved in a volatile economic situation and is good preparation for the future recovery of our district.
“Alliance still has deep concerns about the capital programme going forward, especially in relation to the £35million set aside for the Newry Civic Centre.
“But the overall slight increase in the rate is welcomed and the council officials and the Finance Working Group should be applauded.”
UUP Councillor David Taylor said: “We support this increase which is realistic in the face of the challenges from COVID-19. Our party recognises we are getting the best value for money on our services with the rate being struck.
“All parties were engaged with council officials in this intense process through the year and they had regular meetings addressing many difficult issues.
“This is a very decent result and we have not compromised our services.”