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Cllr Richard Holmes has expressed his fear for the future of the Rates Support Grant (RSG)

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Cllr Richard Holmes has expressed his fear for the future of the Rates Support Grant (RSG).

The Department of Finance’s budgetary briefing paper has floated the idea of the removal of the RSG which redistributes £18m to seven of the less well off councils.

Cllr Holmes said: “Investment in Northern Ireland is focused on the greater Belfast area and these Council’s are recipients of the lucrative business rates. This is a significant boost to council coffers. Meanwhile the more rural councils are becoming commuter belt areas and these councils are being left to service the homeowner needs – collecting the bins and providing leisure and other local services.

“Compounding the skewing of investment to Greater Belfast has led to an infrastructure crisis which is only partly and latterly being addressed. The A26 has been extended but still doesn’t make it all the way to Coleraine and work on the M2 has only recently started.

“The other difficulty we have in Northern Ireland is that 88% of our budget is delivered by Stormont – a government that hasn’t met for a year and with little sign of being able to run a tap never mind a government.

“In Cardiff and Edinburgh half of the budget is delivered by regional government. The message is clear, we need to devolve more budgetary responsibility to the local councils. Why should we have grass cutting being carried out by multiple government agencies?

“The proposed removal of the RSG for Causeway Coast & Glens Council could hit the ratepayers by 3-5% on the Rates. When Stormont is failing and local councils are delivering daily, they need to be supported and not starved for cash.

“The Department for Finance need to get this paper off the table and go back to the drawing board.”

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