Douglas Council has announced that the rate levy for the 2021-22 financial year has been set at 451 pence, an increase of 1.6% over the previous year.

Council Leader David Christian MBE JP delivered his annual review and presentation of the budget, in doing so he said that setting the rate had been sensitive to ‘the real economic uncertainty and hardship’ being experienced by ratepayers as the Island continued to be affected by the fallout from Covid-19.

Councillor Christian went on to say that car parks the Council operated and owned had to be self-financing, which was why Drumgold Street and Chester Street car parks had been handed back to the Department of Infrastructure in August 2020. He said: ‘Had the Department agreed to waive the £1.3 million licence fee last year, or at the very least afforded the Council a temporary suspension during the 2020 Covid restrictions, then we would still be operating Chester Street and Drumgold Street car parks to the benefit of local retailers and shoppers.’

Expanding on the financial implications he said: ‘The pre-Covid budgeted surplus from Drumgold Street and Chester Street car parks for 2020-21 was £123,000. Handing back these two car parks automatically impacts the 2021- 22 rate by the same amount.’

It was also revealed that the decision to cancel the commercial rent increase for 2020-21 had cost in the region of £93,000; cancellation of the 2020 TT and Festival of Motorcycling had led to £54,000 in lost income; and a further £54,000 had had to be allowed for to account for lost income caused by the cancellation of the 2021 TT and possible cancellation of the Festival of Motorcycling.

The Council had also had to meet additional expenses amounting to around £71,000. Among other items this was to cover higher tonnage levels of domestic waste during the 2020 lockdown leading to additional gate fees at the energy from waste plant; extra cleaning regimes as coronavirus risk mitigation measures; personal protection equipment and procuring extra ICT resources to facilitate home working.

Other pressures on the Council’s finances included a £24,000 increase in gate fees at the energy from waste plant from April 1, 2021 and £42,000 budgeted to provide for a possible pay award increase in the eventuality of one being proposed by the government’s Public Services Commission in due course.