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Douglas sets rate levy at 433p for the 2019-2020 financial year

Saturday, 26 January 2019 22:29

Douglas Borough Council has set the rate levy for the 2019-2020 financial year at 433p.

 

The rate represents an increase of 3.3 per cent over the previous year’s figure of 419p.

 

The announcement was made by the Leader of the Council, Councillor David Christian MBE JP, at a public meeting of the Council held on Wednesday January 30, 2019 when he presented his Annual Review and Presentation of the Budget.

 

In his introduction Councillor Christian referred to ‘challenging times ahead in light of the relentless rise in government cost impositions’.

 

He said Douglas was rising to the challenges and that the Council’s commitment to create ‘a Douglas fit for the future’ would remain undiminished.

 

The mission of the Council was, he said, ‘to deliver…not to decline’. He went on to say that the Council was delivering against a record of no or below-inflation increases in the rate for the previous nine years and that in that time the rate had only increased 12.5 per cent compared to an RPI increase of 48.3 per cent.

 

Turning to localisation he said that the Council was successfully delivering government-devolved services such as street cleansing, litter bin emptying, gully clearing and highway verge maintenance cost-effectively and efficiently, despite the loss of £689,000 in government grants and a reduced workforce.

 

He explained: ‘In the last seven years the Council has reduced its full-time workforce by 38 and significantly reduced expenditure on overtime and training. These measures amount to a rate-borne saving of £1.3 million, equating to a 49p rate.’ He went on to point out that had those savings not been made the rate would have had to be 12 per cent higher than 433p.

 

He then focused on car parking and said it was the Council’s firm belief that it should manage all the town’s public car parks. He said that thanks to localisation, which was ‘putting Douglas largely in control of its own destiny’, the Council was free to set its own tariffs for Shaw’s Brow, Drumgold Street and Chester Street car parks. He then went on to issue a cautionary note that while endeavouring to make the car parks financially viable, the Council had always to be sensitive to users’ ability and willingness to pay. It was for this reason that the Council had introduced lower tariffs for Chester Street car park to offer a cheaper alternative to Drumgold Street for central Douglas parking.

 

Turning to increases in Energy from Waste gate fees Councillor Christian said: ‘These will not be increased by more than the indexation factor so the Council will no longer be faced with escalating charges as was originally announced by government.

 

‘This is good news but it still comes with a £60,000 rate-borne cost impact for Douglas for the 2019-2020 financial year as a result of the 5.73 per cent Indexation factor, which equates to a 2.2 pence rate increase. This is more than double December’s RPI.’

 

He added that operational costs of the Middle River civic amenity site, shared proportionally between participating authorities, would see the Council’s 63 per cent share rise by £23,000 for the coming financial year, an impact of 0.8 pence on the rate.

 

He said that as with all the other local authorities in the Island, Douglas was facing mounting pressure on its budgets brought about by increases in National Insurance contributions after the government abolished contracting out of the state second pension with effect from April this year. ‘This will mean an increase in the employer’s National Insurance contributions from 9.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent. For Douglas this amounts to a rate-borne increase of £172,000 in the coming year, or an extra 6.3 pence on the rate.

 

‘This was a cost imposition over which local authorities had no control, as was a pay award settlement decided by the Public Service Commission. For Douglas this will amount to a rate-borne increase of £365,000 for the coming financial year.’

 

Councillor Christian went on to call for an urgent cost-sharing review of the Isle of Man Local Government Pension scheme, in light of employers’ pension contributions increasing to 27 per cent in April and then to 28 per cent in 2020. ‘Employees’ contributions, however, remain fixed at between 5.5 to 7.5 per cent with the burden of funding any scheme deficit falling entirely on the employer and, by extension, on the ratepayer,’ he said.

 

Turning to investment Councillor Christian said the Council was ‘not shying away from pursuing an ambitious capital programme’. This would include £148,000 to replace street lighting columns; £212,000 for the final phase of converting all the Borough’s street lighting to LED units, the latter projected to yield annual savings of around £157,000 in electricity costs; £195,000 for a new skate park in Noble’s Park and £25,000 for new features in Summerhill Glen.

 

He said such investment had not compromised making savings and other budget reductions of £770,000 for the coming financial year, chief among which were employment cost savings of £303,000, including the removal of 8.7 full-time equivalent posts; income increases of £111,000 and savings of £37,000 resulting from street lighting replacement with LED units.

 

Welcoming the start of regeneration works on Douglas promenade Councillor Christian said the Council would be investing £864,000 in a new bespoke lighting scheme for the full length of the promenade. He explained: ‘The existing lighting was due for replacement as it was coming to the end of its life, so the regeneration of the promenade presents an opportune time to carry out the work.’

 

He said that proposals for the Lord Street bus station site, the sales of the Castle Mona and the Villiers site, together with the construction of a Premier Inn nearing completion represented ‘a vote of confidence in the town’ and sent out a strong message that Douglas was ‘a centre of enterprise and opportunity’.

 

Referring to the Henry Bloom Noble Library, he said that in partnership with Isle of Man Post Office the Council would be installing a self-service postal kiosk. He continued: ‘At a time when libraries are closing at an alarming rate in the adjacent isle, this Council continues to invest in the Henry Bloom Noble Library. We believe the library, which enjoys an enviable town centre location, is a vital community hub – a role that will be strengthened all the more from April this year when free all-island membership is introduced.’

 

In closing Councillor Christian said that despite increased demands on its budgets, the Council had successfully absorbed some of the costs, reducing the amount passed on to the ratepayer and yet had still achieved £770,000 in budget reductions.

 

He said the budget was one of ‘growth, investment and vision’ adding: ‘We can and we will deliver for a Douglas fit for the future’.

 

The full Annual Review and Presentation of the 2019-2020 budget can be viewed from this page.

 

 

Douglas has set the rate levy at 433p for the 2019-2020 financial year. 

 

The Leader of the Council Councillor David Christian MBE JP announced the rate at a public meeting of the Council on Wednesday January 30 when he delivered his annual review and presentation of the budget for the 2019-2020 financial year. 

 

The full transcipt of his speech can be downloaded from this page.