Garff Commissioners rates will increase by 14% for the next financial year resulting in a rate of 191.5 pence in the pound for 2024/2025.
The decision for the above-inflation rate increase was only made after careful discussion and deliberation and, as set out below, the Authority’s general revenue reserves are not at a level for them to be drawn upon to mitigate rate increases while maintaining services.
It is the view of the Board that the rate rise for the forthcoming year will ensure that their duty to ensure the Authority maintains a robust fiscal position is fulfilled.
Key points the Board have taken into account in making their decision:
• Comparative Rates: Garff has the fifth largest population (being larger than Castletown, Port Erin, and Port St Mary in terms of number of residents). Despite the significance of the increase, it is worth noting that Garff’s rates are still markedly lower than the other ‘middle-sized’ local authorities.
• Commercial Rate Income: Garff’s demographic means that its income stream is not boosted by the level of commercial rate income which mitigates the financial situation of many other local authorities.
• Geographical Challenges: The Authority has the largest physical area to maintain, leading to significant maintenance costs for services such as road-side hedge-cutting, gully cleaning, and upkeep of extensive public areas between Ballure in the north and Groudle in the south.
• External Factors Increasing Expenditure: The Authority’s expenditure has been affected by external factors such as a 58% rise in external audit charges, substantially increased contributions to fund the operation of the Northern Swimming Pool facility, and several other above-inflation charges which have impacted on finances.
• Waste Management Charges: Escalating waste management charges, especially at Civic Amenity sites, have contributed to the increase. The Commissioners have had to make provision for higher than anticipated interest repayments relating to the purchase of the new Eastern CA Site. In addition, the charging structure at the Northern CA site is under review and the Board has felt it prudent to factor in contingency should further rises be imposed.
• Staff-Related Costs: Although Garff operates with a very low staff to resident ratio, increases in staff participation in the pension scheme and a review of operational staff remuneration has led to further above-inflation human resource expenses.
• Legal Representation: The Commissioners have been required to obtain legal representation to clarify the status of public facilities; this and the recent Boundary Review submitted to the Government by Ramsey Commissioners have caused additional impact on financial resources.
• Campsite Investments: Investments at the campsite are ongoing and the final phase of modernisation will take place in 2024. The campsite is becoming a very popular facility and continues to attract an increasing amount of visitors to Laxey and Garff. In addition, investments in facilities such as electrical hook-up units will provide additional income for many years into the future.
• Streetlighting Maintenance: The District’s ageing streetlighting stock requires additional investment this year to maintain the units and an additional amount of £4,000 has been included in the budget to permit essential maintenance works to take place. When replacements are made more efficient LED lighting units are being installed which will reduce electricity supply charges going forwards.
• Assistance to Treasury with Debt Recovery: The number of domestic rates debtors has increased significantly during Covid as Treasury sought to provide assistance to those in financial difficulty. The Board are now taking additional steps to assist Treasury in their efforts to recover debts from those householders in arrears.