DCSIMG

£30m subsidy for ratepayers in council merger

Finance minister 

Simon Hamilton

Finance minister Simon Hamilton

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA confirmed up to £30million subsidy for ratepayers who would otherwise face excessive rate bills under merging councils.

In a statement to the Assembly the Minister set out the plans to manage rates convergence.

Speaking in the Assembly the Minister said: “The Executive has set aside up to £30million to develop a Transitional Rate Relief Scheme to mitigate the impact of rates convergence on rate payers.

“Work is already underway to develop the criteria and scope of the scheme which will allow councils to strike a new district rate in the normal way.

“Land and Property Services will apply a subsidy in the rate bills to those ratepayers who would otherwise have faced a sudden and excessive increase in rates as a result of the mergers and other boundary changes. We aim to have a consultation process after Easter to inform decisions on the eligibility criteria and duration of the scheme.”

The Minister also outlined the funding mechanism for the transferring of functions to Assembly members.

The Minister continued: “My Department is also working on the mechanism for funding the new responsibilities local government will undertake including operational planning, off-street parking, regeneration and community development along with other transferred activities.

“I have also put plans in place to facilitate councils borrowing funding to meet some of the up-front costs associated with operating the new councils in shadow form prior to April 2015. The decision to borrow is for the councils but they now have the option if they choose to avail of this borrowing facility.

“Local government in Northern Ireland is moving through one of its most challenging periods of reform since 1972. Such large scale transformation offers new opportunities to seek out and strengthen partnership relationships to deliver better, more efficient services to the public and local business communities.

“My plans for public sector reform within central government are already underway and there is an opportunity for those involved in reforming public services to collaborate and optimise their resources, to ensure best practice methods are adopted to embed reformed process across the wider public sector for the benefit of all.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “My Department will do everything it can to assist in making the review of public administration a reality in 2015 in a way that is acceptable to both the ratepayers and the new 11 councils.”

 

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