Northern Ireland

Causeway Coast and Glens Council increases rates by 7.65%

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Media captionThe annual aviation event was a flagship event for north coast tourism

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has agreed a rates increase of 7.65%.

The rise to the district rate was struck on Thursday night as the council attempted to address a £7m funding deficit for the next year.

The council had agreed on Wednesday to make cuts totalling £2.2m.

That included removing funding for the Waterworld family centre in Portrush and the Portrush Air Show, which will not take place this year.

Twenty councillors approved the increase in rates, while 16 voted against the proposal.

The council raised rates by 1.5% last year, which was the first increase in four years.

Increase in parking charges

Ulster Unionist councillor Darryl Wilson said the district rate increase would typically mean an extra £28 to £58 a year for homeowners in the council area with a house of average value.

SDLP councillor Helena Dallat O'Driscoll said her party had opposed the increase and instead proposed that financial experts conduct an audit to establish where the council had "gone wrong".

"Without independent experts and a detailed plan our ratepayers will be shouldering this mess for years to come," she said.

"The only way in which this council can win back public confidence is by calling in the experts and we are disappointed that our efforts to do that have been consistently thwarted."

Image copyright CCGBC
Image caption The Waterworld family entertainment centre opened in Portrush in 1986

Councillors met this week to discuss cost-cutting proposals after it announced that the authority was £68.7m in debt.

Various efficiencies had previously been implemented as part of a plan to balance the accounts for next year.

The cuts will hit some recycling, leisure, tourism and environmental services.

The cancellation of the Portrush Air Show will save the council £240,000.

New car parking charges in Portrush and increased charges in other town centres in the borough will bring in an extra £825,000 for the council.

Debt linked to loan repayments

Councillors were told this week that an urgent independent financial review has concluded that proposed remedial action by the council "provides a sound basis for 2020-21 budget proposals".

The report, which was commissioned this month, has cost the cash-strapped council £10,000.

The council said its £68.7m debt is related to loan repayments on council property, buildings and leisure facilities, similar to arrangements practiced by all councils.

The figure also includes debt inherited from the four old councils in the area prior to the merger in 2015.

The council was told that three other councils in Northern Ireland have higher rates of debt.

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