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Savings stopped a bigger rate rise says council leader

Douglas hit by 3.3% increase

The leader of Douglas Council says ratepayers could've been hit by an even bigger rate rise were it not for the authority's cost saving efforts.

A 3.3 per cent increase in the property tax to fund local services was announced by the Council yesterday (30 Jan), which set the rate at 443 pence in the pound.

A typical three-bedroom house in Douglas will pay an extra 31 pence a week under the change.

David Christian placed the blame for the rise on central government, pointing to the impact of waste charges, a pay award, and pensions changes, all hikes 'outside of Council control'.

He says the rise might have been even bigger had it not been for a £770,000 budget reduction, achieved through a reduction in staff numbers and other savings.

In the local authority's revenue estimates, an expected £11.7 million will arrive in rates over the next financial year (19/20), up from £11.3 million this year.

Over the last nine years, council rates have increased by 12.5 per cent, whilst Manx RPI inflation has risen 48 per cent, a fact Councillor Christian was keen to highlight during his budget speech.

Despite the rise, Councillor Christian insists ratepayers should be 'optimistic', with a financial plan for Douglas of 'growth, investment and vision’.

What costs have been 'imposed' by central government?

A package of costs have been highlighted by several authorities as financial pressures for the year ahead.

As the largest local authority on the Island, these were always more likely to affect Douglas than some of the smaller boards.

According to the Council's books, the 5.7 increase in gate fees at the Energy from Waste Plant and other waste payments to government will cost up to £1.1 million, 40p on the rates.

Without this, officers write that a draft rate woud've landed closer to the 392p mark.

The ending of the contracting out of the second state pension accounts for 45 per cent of the rise, an extra 6.3p on the rates.

A pay award settlement agreed by the Public Services Commission will mean on average that council employees will see a 3.8 per cent increase in wages, an extra 5.3 pence on the rate.

Other factors include a reduction in refuse income, pensions contributions, and reduce car park income.

What will the Council spend?

Under its capital expenditure programme,  the Council projects a total of £14.6 million will be spent, £12.4 of which will be funded through borrowing.

Investment in housing for areas like Willaston and Spring Valley will continue, with plans being drawn up for the redevelopment of Lord Street.

Mr Christian says growth items have been included in the budget, particularly for leisure facilities, like Summerhil Glen and a skatepark in Noble's Park.

The replacement of outdated lights along Douglas promenade as part of central government's regeneration scheme, will also see outlay of around £800,000.

Links

Councillor Christian's budget speech:

http://www.douglas.gov.im/images/pdf/leaderspeech2019.pdf

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