DOUGLAS Council leader David Christian has hit back at Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK’s claims that local authorities have increased their rates by more than the new cost of domestic and commercial waste disposal.
Last week the minister said that rate capping would be the ‘ultimate sanction’ if local authorities don’t make efficiency savings to absorb extra costs of services that are being passed on from central government.
The move by the department to introduce a five-year phased withdrawal of its annual £5.7 million waste subsidy with effect from April 1 this year is the latest government measure to rebalance its budgets.
Mr Christian said: ‘If the minister believes that some authorities have made an increase above the additional cost of the waste levy and have then blamed the whole increase on the waste charge, I would encourage Mr Cretney to “name and shame” those local authorities whose actions are bringing the good name of Douglas and others into disrepute.
‘As far back as February 12, 2003, when I delivered my budget presentation I said only one third of the 10.2 per cent increase in the rate for that year was due to waste charges and I referred to the future scale of those charges as “a step into the unknown”.
‘That year, 2003, the Council did pass on the waste levy fee but it also made it clear that service improvements had also contributed to the rate increase.’
He said that Douglas ratepayers were not even having to shoulder the cost of the waste levy charge as the rate was set at 2.1 per cent, whereas the waste levy charge would amount to a 2.9 per cent increase.
Mr Christian has said the council’s message to central government was authority for authorities.
‘Don’t just pass on the costs. Give us full and absolute authority so we can deliver a full service to our customers and create a more streamlined and cost-effective system of local government.’
Onchan Commissioners has increased its rates – for the first time in three years – by 4p in the pound to 275p in the pound.
Last month board members expressed their ‘deep concerns’ over the increased cost of waste disposal to rate payers, and warned that while it would absorb the increase for 2013-14 by using their financial reserves, ‘rates will have to rise substantially in future’.
Lead member for properties and amenities Rob Callister said local authorities would be paying for the capital spending decisions of present and past governments and for the cost of a 25-year SITA contract into which the local authorities had no input.
He said: ‘Do we just take it on trust that the costs are justified; that government have negotiated a contract that is in the best interests of our rate-payers?’
Peel Commissioners announced that while its rate would remain unchanged at 242p in the pound, waste disposal per dwelling per annum would increase from £128.50 to £152.
Chairman Eric Beale said it was ‘very upsetting’ development plans for the town had been scrapped. But he said the withdrawal of the waste disposal subsidy meant the Commissioners had to factor an increased cost of £42,000 for 2013-14.
Other local authorities that have announced increases include Lezayre (up 3.5p to 70.5p), Port Erin (up 1.08 per cent to 281p), and Michael (up 20p to 129p).
Meanwhile, in one local authority, Braddan, rates have actually fallen by 2p to £2.25 in the pound.
Chairman Margaret Hodge said that for the past five years Braddan had managed its finances in an ‘exemplary fashion’.
And she said despite the reduction money would be spent improving the parish.
‘We hope to follow the similar pattern of this present financial year where a state of the art skate park and BMX track have been developed, and are up and running, in Cronk Grianagh Park which will be officially opened in time for the Easter holidays.’
And for residents in a couple of local authorities, the rate will remain unchanged.
They include Port St Mary (306p) and Castletown (320p).
Mr Cretney has said the withdrawal of the waste disposal subsidy would add just £20 to £22 per household to rates this year.