Petition calls for council to rethink rates rise

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An online petition has been started by a local ratepayer in response to the council’s decision to increase district rates.

Local woman Tracy Mearns set up the ‘We say no to a rates increase in Lisburn and Castlereagh’ petition on the website.

While only a handful of people had signed the petition at the time of publication, Mrs Mearns is calling on others to show their opposition to rising rates bills.

As was predicted in last week’s Ulster Star, councillors approved a rates increase for 2017/18 of just under three per cent - 2.93 per cent for domestic properties and 2.91 per cent for non-domestic properties.

Councillors have stressed that elected members and officers worked hard to keep the rise as low as possible. And they have also pointed out that the council has to have the necessary funds in place to progress a number of important capital projects in the coming months.

Mrs Mearns’ petition, which will be delivered to the Corporate Services department, describes the rates increase as “excessive in these times of austerity when local people are struggling to make ends meet” and calls on the council to consider reviewing the increase and to look at other ways of raising money.

Meanwhile, Lisburn Chamber of Commerce has said it has no comment to make on the council’s decision to approve a 2.91 per cent increase in the non-domestic rate.

Asked if the rise was a blow for businesses in the area, or lower than expected, a spokesman for the chamber said they had “no comment one way or the other.”

However, Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said it was “disappointing to see any council raise business rates”. And he claimed that “high rates are crippling businesses across all council areas.”

Lisburn and Castlereagh still has the lowest domestic rate (0.2885 pence) and second lowest non-domestic rate (21.5300 pence) of Northern Ireland’s 11 council areas. However, several other councils agreed more modest percentage increases for 2017/18.

With the regional rate - the portion of bills set by Stormont - not yet confirmed, the Department of Finance has said there may be a delay in bills being issued this year.

• Read related story - ‘Rates to rise by less than three per cent’