BELFAST City Council tonight agreed to freeze the district rate for 2014/15.
It is the first time in its 41 year history that there has been no increase in two successive years.
It is also the last time the council in its current guise will strike the rate due to Local Government Reform, with a new council responsible for a wider geographical area and with additional powers, taking over in April 2015.
Alderman Gavin Robinson, chair of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “We are fully aware that many of our businesses and citizens continue to face difficult economic times and uncertainty and tonight’s rates freeze is an indication of our willingness to provide support and help.
“A zero increase is effectively a two per cent cut in real terms when inflation is considered and when taken with last year’s rates freeze, when inflation was 2.7 per cent, amounts to almost a five per cent reduction in the district rate during the past two years.
“It is vital that the council gets the balance right between not overburdening our ratepayers in the current economic climate and ensuring we can still invest in the city to support the recovery and continue to provide excellent, value for money services.
“To that end, the main reason we have been able to achieve the rates freeze is due to our efficiency programme that has now realised £18m of savings during the past seven years and will meet the target of £20 million by the end of the 2015 period.
“At the same time, we are still able to deliver on our promise of two years ago that we would invest £150 million in the city through our Investment Programme with many schemes either underway or completed and over 400 job opportunities created – twice the original target of 200 that we set.
“The City Council will continue to invest while looking to provide more efficient and effective services – and this is particularly important with the Local Government Reform edging closer and new powers and a wider geographical area coming to Belfast next April.
“This is the last rates setting process that the current council will undergo ahead of that Reform and I am delighted that we have been able to mark it by making a little bit of history by freezing our district rate for two successive years – the first time such a feat has been achieved. “