Record levels of rates arrears in Dungannon

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The financial stress afflicting Dungannon households and businesses has been laid bare by new figures showing record levels of rate arrears.

A total of £2.4million is owed by Dungannon homeowners, while a further £1.8m is owed by the former district’s businesses - the highest amounts of debt in the new Mid Ulster District.

By comparison Cookstown residents owe £1.4m in rates arrears, while its businesses owe £1m. Magherafelt households are £1.36m in rates arrears, while its businesses owe a further £943,000.

The total Dungannon arrears of £4.2m are a 40 per cent increase from the 2012 figure of £3m, which at the time was a record level of debt.

The figures emerged in the same week that a finance paper issued by the Northern Ireland Assembly revealed that 61% of business properties in the Mid Ulster district have had their rates increased in the past year, while 24% got a decrease.

The number of properties having an increase in their bill was higher than the average rise across the North.

Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan warned that properties in rural areas of the district were more likely to have seen an increase in their rates bill, yet services to these areas have reduced or never existed in the first place.

She said: “If we are to create a prosperous rural economy then rates for non domestic properties such as retail and business units need to be pitched around the same level and that services are maintained at the same level as those in urban areas.

“I will be working with our councillor team on the council to ensure that we not only looking at lowering the rate but that services that are taken for granted in urban parts of the counties are extended to the country areas as well.”