‘Rates increase will protect services’ – Hearty

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Monday, February 15th, 2016
Community, Politics
Sinn Fein Group Leader Councillor Terry Hearty has said that an increase in rates will deliver a number of key projects in the district and protect front line services and community investments. hearty1Speaking after a special meeting of the council to strike the new rates deal Cllr Hearty said he knew any increase would be an added strain on people but he hoped that people would see it as an investment in the area. “While I understand that nobody wants to see any increase in rates I hope that people will recognise that this rather modest increase of 1.96 per cent, amounting to around 26p a week, will secure a number of key projects in the area that will have enormous long term gains,” he said. “We have two major projects to consider this year. Phase two of the new Newry Leisure Centre project will begin as will work on a new leisure centre for Downpatrick. On top of that we have a number of smaller projects going on throughout the district that will be no less important to the communities they are happening in. “This increase will also allow us to protect over £500,000 for seasonal events and festivals throughout the district. As chair of the Tourism Task and Finish Working Group I can confirm that as well as being important to local communities these events are crucial for attracting visitors into the area and several of them are responsible for a large number of overnight stays in the district,” he explained. “In addition to these projects we also have a duty to protect and maintain all the frontline services that the council currently offers. “We have also kept some money available to assist communities in applying for funds from the Rural Development Programme, which is set to bring some £11m into the district over the next five years. This money is crucial for village enhancement which is also part of our tourism project and plays a key role in plans to create rural jobs. “With so much to deliver to the area over the next year we hope people will accept this very modest increase, which was discussed in the council and agreed by all parties. Hearty added, “Meanwhile, I would still advise businesses that received a huge increase in their business rates following the revaluation by Land and Property Services to continue to appeal them. Our minor increase will secure jobs and services in the area while some of the enormous increases by Land and Property will only endanger them.”

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