RATES RELIEFBoundary changes to keep bills down in Lisburn

A ROW over the boundaries for the new combined Lisburn Castlereagh council which could have seen a huge increase in the bills for local ratepayers has been settled at the last minute.

The boundaries for the new council, which is expected to come into effect in 2015, had originally moved the Forestside Shopping Centre and Castlereagh Council offices into Belfast, meaning that millions of pounds in rates would be lost each year.

However, following strenuous arguments made on behalf of the new council, the legislation has been altered to allow Forestside to stay within the Lisburn/Castlereagh area.

The draft Local Government (Boundaries) Order has now passed through the Executive and has been laid in the Assembly.

It will set the boundaries of all eleven new local government districts as well as the number, boundaries and names of the wards into which each district will be divided.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “The draft Order is a further step towards the reorganisation of local government.

“After extensive public consultation, the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner recommended the boundaries of the eleven new districts. The Assembly accepted the recommendations with two slight modifications.

“The Order will be considered by the Environment Committee. If councils or others have views on the boundaries, they will have the opportunity to advise the Committee. Before the summer, I hope the boundaries will be debated in the Assembly,” he added,

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan welcomed the news that the Executive had overturned the Boundary Commission proposal on the Castlereagh Council Headquarters and Forestside.

“The original proposal would have stripped the new council of millions of pounds in rates income resulting in a massive increase in rates for the new council to pay for the important services provided by local government,” said Mr Givan.

“I and my colleagues opposed this proposal at every stage as the commercial rates base of Castlereagh Council is vital to the delivery of services in this area and without it Lisburn ratepayers would have borne the financial consequences through an increase in the rates bill of hundreds of pounds.

“Lisburn has the third lowest rates bill in Northern Ireland but this was in jeopardy as result of the Boundary Commission.

“The changes made by the Executive to overturn the proposal is the correct decision and ensures the new council is financially viable allowing it to deliver quality services at the best value to the ratepayer,” concluded Mr Givan.