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Mayor's Address 21/22

RATES ESTIMATES 2021/22

Today, Derry City and Strabane District Council has agreed its budget for the incoming 2021/22 financial year. As Mayor, I want to record my thanks to Members and Officers for all their work in what has been an extremely challenging rates process and confirm that Derry City and Strabane District Council has made and fixed a District rate of 30.9537p in the £ for Non-Domestic properties and of 0.5103p in the £ for Domestic properties for the year ending 31st March 2022. This represents a 1.89% District rates increase for all ratepayers which when coupled with a regional rates freeze will see overall rates bills increase by 0.99%.

For an average domestic ratepayer in this Council area, this will see the current average domestic District rates bill of £484.69 increase by £9.16 per annum or 18p per week. On the basis of average property valuations being lower than in other Council areas, the average ratepayer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area will continue to pay lower rates bills than average ratepayers in the majority of other Council areas. For businesses impacted by the pandemic, Council is very hopeful that the rates support provided by Government will continue into 2021/22.

The last year has seen unprecedented financial challenges for our residents and businesses. It is therefore more important than ever that a realistic rate is struck that recognises the challenges our ratepayers face but that also sets Council on a sustainable footing to play a critical role in recovery and continue to provide the essential services our citizens require. Accordingly, the 1.89% increase represents the lowest increase ever imposed in the City and District and is the lowest sustainable rates rise that could have been achieved without adversely impacting on services or programmes.

The pandemic has resulted in significant new cost pressures for Council to ensure critical services can continue in a safe and compliant manner. It has also seen us loose a substantial proportion of our service income and has created uncertainty around our rate-base income on which we rely to fund 80% of our services. Thankfully, prudent financial management during the pandemic along with very significant Government support, including rates support for businesses, has ensured Council’s finances have been stabilised, at least in the short term as we hope for a positive recovery.

Beyond these pandemic challenges, significant recurrent pressures totalling 3.09% have been absorbed. In particular, regionally agreed pay awards have had to be forecast and provided for, insurance costs have increased and waste budgets are have come under pressure as a result of significantly rising volumes and disposal costs.

Against this, there are again a number of very positive messages from this year’s rates process. Despite the pandemic, new property development has seen a 0.6% improvement in our rate-base. Significant effort has continued to drive savings and further efficiencies totalling £599k have been realised with a further positive 0.99% benefit for ratepayers. As a result, efficiencies realised since amalgamation of the legacy Councils have now reached a cumulative total of almost £4m per annum.

It is also pleasing to report that 0.39% of the rates increases represents growth and new service development. As well as new resources to support Irish language and climate change initiatives, this year’s rate will see further investment in Council’s ambitious capital plan.

Over the last few days, I have been honoured as Mayor to sign the Heads of Terms for the £250m City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund investment package. This is the single biggest investment package ever secured for this City and Region that will see the creation of 7,000 new jobs, £126m in new wages and £230m of GVA per annum generated for our area. The rates increase will provide Council with resources to drive forward this integrated and ambitious suite of innovation, digital, health, regeneration and tourism projects across the City and District and will also secure Council’s required match-funding contribution to the overall package of investment.

Critically, alongside this, the new rates investment will enable further delivery of Council’s ambitious programme of community capital investment and other strategic projects. Having completed £60m of capital investment over the past few years, a further £55m of exciting further projects are now progressing towards completion, including:-

· Progression of 3 significant cross border greenway developments from Derry to Buncrana, Derry to Muff and Strabane to Lifford totalling €20m

· Development of the new €9m Riverine shared space Community Park project between Lifford and Strabane.

· Advancement of a range of Community centre developments at Waterside Shared Village, Glenview, Shantallow, Galliagh, Culmore and Ballymagroarty/ Hazelbank.

· Continued development of play facilities, pitches, recreational facilities and shared spaces across the Council area including at Artigarvan, Castlederg, Donemana, Magheramason, Newtownstewart, Sion Mills, Prehen, Mourne Park and Newbuildings. 

· Provision of new cemetery provision on the west bank of the City.

Council’s key priority this year will be to continue to work with all of our partners and Government departments to deliver on the objectives and targets of the Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan 2017-2030 which aims to make a thriving, prosperous and sustainable City and District with equality of opportunity for all.

In conclusion, the agreed District rates increase will continue to drive growth and investment in the City and Region as well as ensure continued delivery across all of Council’s front-line services from street cleansing and waste, building control, planning and environmental health, grounds maintenance, parks and cemeteries, leisure, sport, health and community development and support, and vital corporate support services.