Mid Ulster Council strike: no rebate for ratepayers

Mid Ulster District Council has confirmed there is “no facility under the current system” to offer rebates to ratepayers in spite of disruption to services caused by the current strike.

With local services that ratepayers pay for disrupted for three weeks so far as a result of the industrial action, the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the council if they could expect to receive some form of rate refund.

A council spokesperson said no refund would be forthcoming and explained this is primarily because a mechanism to do so does not exist.

“Rates are not collected by or paid to councils, but rather to central government (Land and Property Services) and they fund all public services, from health and education to roads, as well as the services provided by councils,” said the council spokesperson.

The continuing industrial action is hitting bin collections in the district.

“There is no facility under the current system to offer rebates for any reduction in a service provided by any public body which is funded through rates.”

Meanwhile, the council is questioning why members of Unite continue to strike, when its local pay proposal is, it claims, the most financially beneficial on offer from any council in Northern Ireland.

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The local authority claims it has offered a proposed four per cent pay increase for staff over two years, on top of the national pay offer which would bring a further 10 per cent rise this year for those on the lowest scales.

Also included within the proposal is a one-off payment of £500 in recognition of the financial pressures which many face as a result of the cost of living crisis.

“The Joint Trade Union Side (Unite, GMB and NIPSA) has accepted the local pay offer, while wishing to see an improvement in the one-off cost of living payment,” said a council spokesperson.

“However, while Council has committed to working with the Joint Trade Union Side to find a resolution to the current impasse and to engage in meetings on the single outstanding issue, the current industrial action has not been ended.”

In response to this statement, Unite’s regional officer and lead for Mid Ulster District Council, Gareth Scott, said the strike was continuing as “extensive attempts” by the union have failed to secure agreement with the local authority’s management.

“Management’s offer in response to our members’ initial pay claim was inadequate to end the dispute,” said Mr Scott.

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“To advance things the trade union side made a counter offer which differed by only a relatively small one-off cash payment.

“It was our expectation that agreement on this counter-offer would have ended the pay dispute.

“Unfortunately, despite a positive initial indication, no formal response from management has been forthcoming. Our members have, therefore, been left with no alternative but to continue the strike.

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Mid Ulster Council 'questioning' continued strike action

“The union is reviewing our current schedule of strike action which is currently set to end on Friday, August 19. In advance of that, we once again call on council bosses to respond to the trade union offer, end this dispute and the unnecessary disruption that it is causing ratepayers.”