The district rate for the 2018-19 financial year will be considered at a special meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC) today (Thursday).

Last year, the district rate increased by 2.95 percent because of a new legislative requirement for food waste to be collected separately, which increased the total amount to be raised by the district rate by 54 per cent. Another factor that saw last year’s rate increase was the requirement for the Council to pay the Living Wage (£8.45 per hour) and the apprenticeship levy of 0.5 per cent that applied for the first time last year.

READ: Why YOUR rates are set to rise by at least 2.95 per cent

Ahead of deciding this year’s district rate, UUP Councillor Robert Irvine has said FODC “must ensure that there is not an increasing unnecessary burden on the ratepayers of the area.”

He stated: “There shouldn’t be a mindset that just because there are inevitable costs outside our control, that we automatically pass these on to our ratepayers. We must look at issues innovatively in order to keep rates to a minimum.”

Councillor Irvine believes the Council should aim “to keep our domestic rate to a zero percent increase or even a reduction due to the way we, as a Council decide to operate.”

The total amount of rates paid by Fermanagh and Omagh District residents and businesses is made up from a combination of the regional rate and the district rate.

The regional rate is set by central government and represents the largest portion of the overall rates bill which residents and businesses pay. The regional rate - which has not yet been set by central government - contributes towards the cost of providing services such as roads, education, health provision, emergency services, law and order, social services and community development.

Fifty-six per cent of the total of Fermanagh and Omagh residents’ rates (domestic ratepayers) and 62 per cent of the total of business rates (non-domestic ratepayers) goes towards funding these central government services.

The district rate, which is set by Council, is used to fund and improve key local Council services such as refuse collection and recycling, leisure and recreation, building control and planning, tourism and events, community services, economic development and environmental health. It is also used to invest in key capital and infrastructure projects within the district to enhance the quality of life and the local environment for all.

Forty-four per cent of the total rates paid by Fermanagh and Omagh residents and 38 per cent of the total rates paid by businesses goes to the Council to fund these key services.

“The draft budget and proposed district rate for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have been developed following an extensive and robust financial planning exercise overseen by the Council’s Estimates Working Group," said Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Stephen McCann.

He added: “This involved the review of existing budgets, Council and Community Planning priorities and Council Service Delivery Plans, leading to the development of new draft budgets. The Council is acutely aware of minimising the impact on ratepayers but also has to consider a range of factors that will impact on the Council budgets including changes in the current operating environment and uncertainty associated with the availability Central Government funding.”