IT’s a JOKE: Outrage over new rates hike

WITH the council confirming pay awards and pension increases are among the reasons for yet another increase in rates, Fermanagh residents have hit out angrily at the hike.   
District rates on both homes and businesses are to increase by a further 2.3 per cent this year, bringing the total increase in bills coming through local letterboxes to over 17 per cent in the past seven years. That’s despite very few homeowners receiving similar increases in pay, or businesses seeing a corresponding increase in income. Reacting to the news, Herald readers branded the increase  “a disgrace” and “a joke” that could impact the entire local economy. 
“This knocks on to the money we have, it make us spend that little less, which hits local businesses,” said one. 
Another said: “I am fed up to the back teeth of rate rises every year. Our wages don’t go up and we are supposed to get this money out of it.” 
The hike was agreed by councillors at a heated meeting held in Enniskillen Townhall on Thursday night. The Council have since moved to justify the increase, stating that it was 
“to ensure there is an adequate budget in place to support  the delivery of Council services and investment in infrastructure at an affordable rate” while also “taking into account a number of external financial challenges” in the year ahead. 
Regarding those “external challenges”, a Council spokesman said an unforeseen reduction in the Rates Support Grant from central government and increased costs of waste collection and disposal were putting additional demands on the Council budget. They said uncertainties over Brexit could also increase costs. 
The spokesman added: “Pay awards, pay alignments and pension increases, agreed at a national level, will also be resourced through this year’s budget, while efficiency savings will be made across a number of Council service areas to offset general inflationary increases in costs.”
The Council is anticipating a net revenue from rates of £35 million, which they say will be used to deliver a wide range of services including waste collection, maintaining parks and open spaces, operating leisure facilities, theatres and arts centres, running visitor attractions, and supporting economic development. 
Herald readers outraged at hike 
RATE payers here in Fermanagh have reacted angrily to news their bills are to go up once again, with some even calling for drastic action. 
Facing yet another year of increased rates, the people of the district are becoming increasingly frustrated. 
Reacting to the new on the Herald’s social media page, many called the increase “a disgrace” or “a joke.” 
Janette  Pauley said: “Absolutely disgraceful, there will soon will be no businesses left in this town, a real joke.” 
Shane Hallett also branded the increase was “a joke.” 
“Rate hikes to cover councillor pay rises and pay for dreamt up, waste of money projects,” he said. 
Lorraine Walker said “possibly the only people happy with this are the Council staff themselves.” 
Sophia Little said it was “an absolute joke” making “hard working people pay more to fund councillor pay rises.”
Ray Haskins pointed to the recent proposal to increase councillors pay and said: “This knocks on to the money we have, it stops us spending that little less, which hits local businesses.” 
Some went even further in their thoughts. Damhnaic MacCiaragain called for a strike, stating “it happened before”, while Thomas J Curry asked “if everyone just put their foot down and refused to pay rates what could anyone do?”
“I for one ain’t going to pay, I am fed up to the back teeth of rate rises every year. Our wages don’t go up and we are supposed to get this money out of it,” said Raymond Dickson who added the Council should use rate money more wisely. “No wonder so many businesses are closing down and the place is falling apart.” 

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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