The new 2011/12 rate poundages for the 26 District Councils in Northern Ireland are now available – see Stats & Facts section to the left.

The good news is that Councils have recognised the difficult trading conditions for most businesses and kept increases to the minimum possible – for that they should be applauded.

The average increase is 2.16%, with Strabane winning the award for the lowest increase at 0.63%.  This is particularly impressive because the regional rate element of the poundage (representing 57% of the total poundage) increased 2.50% so the District Rate actually went down.

Coleraine has announced the largest increase at 2.96%, just ahead of Banbridge at 2.95%.  The Belfast increase is 2.71%.

The bad news is that (unlike in England, Scotland & Wales) we do not have a “Uniform Business Rate” in Northern Ireland and poundages range from 48.23 pence in the pound (Castlereagh) to 61.85 pence in the pound (Moyle).  This means that a company sat on one side of a council boundary is charged rates far in excess of a company on the other side of the boundary.

We believe this issue that should be looked at by the new Assembly – it is nonsense that an economy the size of Northern Ireland should have 26 different rate poundages.

However, the main priority for the new Assembly must be to encourage new development, both commercial and residential, to increase the number of properties that share the rate burden and therefore keep rate poundages down in the long term to help the competitiveness of Northern Irish companies and encourage job creation.