Douglas Borough Council has set the 2014-2015 rate levy at 397p.
The new rate equates to a 0.5 per cent increase over the previous year; in real terms a rise of 4p per week for a typical three bedroom semi-detached house.
At a special public meeting of the Council held on Wednesday January 29th Council leader Councillor David Christian presented a Budget he described as ‘affordable and confident’.
Although the Island’s economic climate was less ‘sombre’ now Councillor Christian cautioned: ‘The Isle of Man is far from leaving its difficulties behind and the Council still faces much uncertainty over the future size and shape of its budgets, its services and its workforce.’
In his presentation he emphasised that over the past five years the Borough rate had been increased by just 12p in the pound, ‘At 3.1 per cent, well within Manx inflation of 21.5 per cent. In two of those years there was no increase at all,’ he added.
The modest increase had been achieved, he said, ‘while government kept passing on increased costs estimated at more than £800,000 that, on its own, is a 30p in the pound increase which, if passed to the ratepayers, would have been a 7.8 per cent increase.’ And he reminded his fellow Members, of the Council’s ‘pattern of consistent capital investment over five years’ which, excluding housing, amounted to £10.2 million.
Achieving savings was a central theme to Councillor Christian’s presentation. Through prudent financial management those savings had amounted to £2.9 million over the past five years, notably through efficiency measures limiting pay awards, not replacing some vacant posts and funding some capital investments through reserves. Crucially, he explained: ‘These were genuine savings…born out of forward thinking and informed planning.’
He went on to explain how the Council was investing to save, citing the example of £100,000 of reserves channelled into the plant renewals fund to invest in future public lighting improvements and £150,000 to refurbish Hutchinson Square.
While achieving savings and making prudent use of reserves the Council would be facing the challenge of increased waste levy charges; these, from April 1st 2014, would result in a more than £1 million cost to the ratepayer. ‘This equates to a 38p rate, almost 10 per cent of your rate bill,’ explained Councillor Christian.
Despite demands on its resources and mounting pressures on its budgets the Council remained committed to its £1.9 million investment in town regeneration to ensure Douglas was seen as ‘open for business’ said Councillor Christian.
Other points made included £8.8 million to be invested in the Council’s housing stock; refurbishment of properties in Willaston to eradicate damp problems; completion of the inner ring and refurbishment of outer ring houses at Upper Pulrose and new sheltered housing complexes at Pulrose and Willaston. Councillor Christian said the schemes represented ‘welcome news for the Island’s construction industry at a time when this sector is continuing to suffer the effects of the economic slowdown.’
Concluding Councillor Christian said the Council was working through its long-term plan to save, invest and innovate and that he had presented ‘a strong, but sensitive and responsive budget’ that reflected ‘A Douglas proud of its past and confident of its future.’
The full annual review and presentation of the budget can be viewed and downloaded at douglas.gov.im.