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Derry council slammed for steepest rates hike while it 'wallows in debt'
25 Apr 2019
A candidate in the upcoming local elections has slammed the council for hiking rates while it has accumulated over £50m worth of debt in recent years. Independent Nationalist candidate for the Moor, Emmet Doyle, has criticised councillors for increasing rates for ordinary people earlier this year whilst the Council has amassed “massive government loans” under their watch. The Derry area has seen the steepest hike of all eleven district councils. More than half of those fell under 2% while Derry was the only council area to rise above 3% - with an agreed increase of 3.46%. Mr Doyle commented: "The recent rates rise, not the first since this council took office, exposes just out of touch many of the councillors really are. “In their own audited accounts ending March 2018, the Council has admitted it has amassed over £53.6 million of government loans, yet not a mention of it from Council or its members this week. “Ordinary people are struggling to balance their own household books and their elected representatives feel it is appropriate to raise their rates again and seemingly ignore the massive debt that has been accumulated during the last number of years.” He added: “The average house value in Derry is just over £113k and according to Land and Property Services that would put the average rates bill at over £1000 for residents. “I plan to continue exposing the flippant manner our council spends public money in the coming weeks and months. Public finance is there to benefit the people, not for any other reason." However, Derry City and Strabane District Council has justified the rates increase and said it was necessary to deliver various capital projects. A spokesperson for the Council explained that in February of this year elected members approved the Council’s budget for the 2019/20 financial year and agreed a 3.46% increase to the district rate. The increase represented 0.37% in “unavoidable statutory pressures,” he said, and 3.11% in investment in strategic projects closely aligned to the City Deal proposition which aims to drive continued growth in our City Region. “Negotiations are progressing towards a City Deal for Derry and Strabane and this year’s rates will provide £20m of investment towards these ambitious proposals and Council’s strategic capital projects. “Our significantly advanced proposals provide a strong case for investment in the critical catalyst projects required to transform our City region. “The average rateable value of a domestic property in this Council District is £96,157, on the basis of this average value, an average ratepayer will pay a total annual rates bill of £905.70, £465.88 which is paid to fund Council services with the remaining £439.82 being paid to Central Government. “On the basis of the average property valuations being lower than in other Council areas, the average ratepayer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area pays lower rates bills than average ratepayers in the majority of other Council areas.”
Capital projects He continued: “Loan borrowing has actually decreased during the term of the new Council from £52.73m to its current level of £50.34m. “Loan borrowing can only be initiated to fund capital projects and significant progress has been made by Council in recent years in progressing a range of capital priorities identified within the Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan. “Having already completed £49m of capital projects in the last 3 years, funding has also been set aside by Council to progress a further £70m of capital projects and 2019 will see advancement of a wide range of exciting capital projects.” The projects referred to will include the progression of three significant cross border greenway developments from Derry to Buncrana, Derry to Muff and Strabane to Lifford totalling €20m and local greenway development at Ebrington, Clooney and Kilfennan. Advancement of a range of Community centre developments at Top of the Hill, Waterside Shared Village, Glenview, Shantallow, Galliagh, Culmore and Ballymagroarty/Hazelbank.
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