A programme of local government reform completed in April 2015 reduced the number of councils from 26 to 11 in NI. Following the May 2014 elections, the DUP and Sinn Fein emerged as the largest parties in 10 councils with the exception of Newry and Mourne District Council, where the SDLP and SF are in the majority with the same number of seats.
Now we look at the promises made to the electorate during the 2014 European and Local Government election by each of the three respective parties.
On 6th May 2014 at the launch of the DUP Manifesto, then-DUP Leader Peter Robinson states:
“By voting DUP you will be sure we will keep your household taxes down.” Source here
The Sinn Fein manifesto states:
“We also feel that accessible housing with reasonable rent and rates should be available to everyone.” – Page 12, SF 2014 European and Local Government Manifesto (6CO). Source here.
The SDLP manifesto states:
“In the next mandate the SDLP will assist both the business and domestic ratepayer by ensuring council rates do not rise above inflation.” – Page 40, SDLP 2014 European and Local Government manifesto. Source here.
Those are some fairly clear commitments made by the parties that now run our local councils.
Now let’s put those promises to the test. All local councils set their rates in mid-February. According to the Treasury, the current rate of inflation is 1.3%, we have included this on the graph below as the orange line.
As is clearly demonstrated, seven out of eleven councils have increased their district rate above inflation. Belfast City Council froze their rates for the third year in a row, and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council reduced their district rate from 2015 by almost half of a percent, the only to do so.
So, primarily, the DUP have broken their promise to keep household taxes down – three councils under their control – Lisburn and Castlereagh, Causeway Coast and Glens, and Ard and North Down have all increased District rates above inflation.
The SDLP broke their promise to keep rates below inflation in Newry and Mourne District Council.
Sinn Fein increased rates above inflation in all of the councils they control except Belfast City Council, with the highest set in Mid Ulster District Council.
Is an election coming up? You might want to mention it to your candidates.