CONCERNS remain over what the new rates bill for householders and businesses in the county will be when the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council comes into power in April of next year.
Fermanagh has traditionally has had low rates in comparison to the rest of the North – however, a local MLA has questioned the impact of loans owed by Omagh District Council, which are over three times the size of those owed by the current Fermanagh District Council.
When the councils merge, so will their loan bills – and this could have a negative effect on ratepayers here, according to the UUP’s Tom Elliott.
At present, for domestic properties, Fermanagh’s rates are 0.250 (pence) while Omagh’s sit at 0.377.
For non-domestic properties, Fermanagh’s rates are 18.114, while Omagh’s are 23.206.
Rates are paid per pound of rateable value of the property. Rates help deliver services through the council, for example, the upkeep of amenities, street cleaning, bin collections.
Mr Elliott explained the current financial positions of the councils: At 31 March 2011, Omagh District Council had long term loans of £11.02 million compared to £3.67 million in Fermanagh. Fermanagh District Council’s anticipated long term loans at 31 March 2015 are £5.86 million whereas Omagh District Council has confirmed their anticipated long term loans at 31 March 2015 are £17.7 million, over three times more than Fermanagh.
Mr Elliott said that there is ‘no way that the local council should be forced to bear the costs under the new RPA (Review of Public Administration)’.
He added: “This will have major implications for the people of Fermanagh, particularly in terms of a significant local rates increase.
“We have already heard through council of some of the very high transition costs, which included IT integration and a new integrated phone system.
Mr Elliott went on: “This demonstrates the potential for massive uncertainty about the scale of the transition costs for the merging of councils, especially in Fermanagh and I have no doubt this will become an increasingly important issue for ratepayers throughout the province as the DUP/Sinn Fein plans for local government re-organisation are rolled out.”
The Stormont executive has committed £30m to a scheme to help ease the cost for ratepayers in the most affected areas – however the details of this have not yet been revealed.
A spokesman for Fermanagh District Council said: “Fermanagh District Council do not wish to make any comment at this stage.”
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