Enough is enough: councillors under fire for rates hike

WITH district rates on homes and businesses set to rise by a further 2.3 percent this year UUP Councillor Robert Irvine, has said, “Enough is enough”.
“Council colleagues at the moment don’t want to face reality and take some hard decisions.
“We have to take on board the issues that businesses and individuals are facing and we have to show and lead the way in regard to trying to create efficiencies and economies and keep our costs to a minimum.”
After Sinn Fein, the DUP and SDLP all voted for an increase in rates, Cllr Irvine came under fire from council colleagues from the other main parties accusing him of electioneering and populism.
Herald readers reacted angrily to the rates hike announcement. One reader said, “People especially pensioners cannot afford another rise. Ours went up £100 last year and all we get is bin collection.”
UUP Councillors had proposed a zero percent rates freeze however, this was rejected.
The party claimed that ratepayers had been mislead in regards to the savings that were supposed to materialise after the amalgamation of the previous Fermanagh and Omagh district councils.
“The reality of it is in Fermanagh that because of the differential in the rates between the old Omagh and Fermanagh legacy councils, Fermanagh ratepayers bascially have paid somewhere in the region of 35 – 40 percent of an increase over the last three and a half to four years to bring them up to par with Omagh. Whereas, Omagh has been stalled at that sort of rate.
“Local ratepayers have literally been left paying the price of the failure of the council amalgamation.
“That is why we proposed the 0 percent increase. I acknowledged that freezing the rate would potentially have put a strain on some other council funds, but it is up to us as the elected representatives to help find those savings.”
Cllr Irvine added that in his opinion the structure currently in place was not delivering the efficiencies it was supposed to.
“All we seem to be doing as a council is absorbing costs that every business, if you want to look at us as a business as well, is being faced with: Differences in legislation in regard to pensions, national insurance, cost of living wages and other extraneous issues coming in regard to materials costs.
“There seems to be an attitude from other party groupings that it is all right to pass this on to the rate payers and the rate payers will pay it. I’m afraid our party now is saying ‘no, enough is enough’.”

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