Rates frozen at Moyle Council meeting in Ballycastle

Moyle Council headquarters in Ballycastle.
Moyle Council headquarters in Ballycastle.

MOYLE District Council last night (Monday) agreed an inflation-busting zero percentage rates freeze.

Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane (Sinn Fein), said it was a fitting legacy for councillors that as it was the last time local representatives have set the rate by themselves they had resisted any rise and kept the figure to zero.

Next year the new ‘super council’ will set the rate as part of the reorganisation of local government.

The Moyle zero figure was achieved by diverting around three quarters of a million pounds from Council’s reserves of cash.

The zero rates figure means the household rate in Moyle remains at 0.39 pence in the pound and the non-domestic rate is 31.62 in the pound.

And that was even with money allocated for some big schemes like £350,000 being set aside to carry out a feasibility study - and some funding - for possible 3G sports pitches in Moyle with all areas - Bushmills, Ballycastle and the Glens - being examined.

That scheme was put forward by Cllr Padraig McShane (Independent).

Malachy McCurdy, Chairman of Ballycastle GAA club, attended the meeting and, speaking from the public gallery, said his club would like to see a new 3G pitch for use by all sporting codes in the area.

Cllr Colum Thompson (Sinn Fein) said if there was a 3G pitch in Cushendall it would mean Cushendall soccer club could play in their home town instead of in Larne.

.Cllr Robert McIlroy (DUP) said there should be joined-up thinking and arrangements made with schools that pitches can be used by the whole community after 3pm on school days and at weekends.

That way he said funding of new ventures could be shared with the education authorities instead of “this endless burden on ratepayers”.

Cllr Padraig McShane said that when Moyle joins the ‘super council’ there will be a rates reduction as the cost will be spread out over a larger area.

TUV councillor Sharon McKillop succeeded in getting a sum to be set aside for a strategic village plan for Bushmills which could open the way for investment in the town.

She said: “For far too long this Council has ignored the needs of Bushmills and it is time this shortfall is dealt with.”

Cllr Padraig McShane said anybody could say they are unfairly treated but he said a review was carried out in 2011 which showed “only one area suffering - that was the Glens area”.

Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said Bushmills has improved its appearance in recent years and she said it is important that development work takes place there as it very often one of the first places tourists coming to Northern Ireland get a close look at.

Councillors praised council staff, including Moira Quinn, for being able to achieve a zero per cent figure.

Cllr Padraig McShane said the money in the Council’s Reserves was built up by dilligence in previous years and he said it was “remarkable” that they were able to apply over £700,000 to make sure there was no rates rise.

He added: “If we had not these balances to apply the ratepayers would be kicking us out”.

Cllr Donal Cunningham (SDLP) said the zero figure meant that because of the financial times we are living in “we are doing a great service to ratepayers and businesses in the area”.

Cllr Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) also welcomed the zero figure as she said businesses in towns like Ballycastle have been under severe pressure and several have closed.

Cllr Padraig McShane said plans for ‘crazy golf’ will be a big attraction” as he said there are people who will travel long distances on a day out just to take part.

Cllr Randal McDonnell said: “I lack any sympathy for these endless proposals to spend money”.