Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Roy Beggs Jnr has warned of the potential for significant rates hikes in Larne and Carrickfergus as a result of the 11 Council proposal which will see Larne and Carrickfergus being joined to Ballymena in a new Council configuration.
Mr Beggs said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party supported a 15 Council model based on the 18 Parliamentary Constituencies, with one Council to cover the four Belfast Constituencies.
However a 11 Council model with a new local government body for Mid and East Antrim has been pushed through at Stormont with the votes of DUP, SF and Alliance party. This paves the way for Larne and Carrickfergus to be merged with Ballymena in an artificially constructed new Council.
The issues about lack of local identity and the dilution of local democracy are important but in many ways academic arguments compared to the likelihood of rising rate bills caused by the costs of rate convergence and transfer of functions.
Transition costs have been estimated at £118 million by PWC, and while originally Reform of Public Administration was meant to be about saving money and providing better services, in reality many ratepayers could be in for a huge financial shock.
From figures provided to the Stormont Finance Committee, I believe that domestic rates will be higher for residents of Larne and Carrickfergus by between 2% and 3 than they would otherwise have been if they had been linked with their natural neighbouring borough- Newtownabbey- rather than Ballymena. Ballymena’s Domestic rate poundage is currently 1% higher than Larne whereas Newtownabbey’s is over 4% lower. Rate payers in Larne in particular could face significant increases above normal inflationary pressures.
Again local businesses in Larne and Carrickfergus will face further rates pressures. Ballymena’s rates are almost 4% higher than Larne whereas Newtownabbey’s are only 2.4% higher. So both households and Businesses in Larne and Carrickfergus will face rates level higher than they would otherwise have faced had Larne and Carrickfergus linked with Newtownabbey and Ballymena.”
See excel sheet attached
I have extracted the figures for the new area and compared them with Larne (the lowest of the neighbouring councils). Ballymena will have half the new council electorate and so will account for approximately half the future rates for the new council area.