BELFAST ratepayers could be smiling tonight, with councillors expected to strike a zero rates increase for the third year running.

The rates freeze should be confirmed at the meeting of Belfast Shadow Council tonight (Monday) and will then be subject to payment of a Department of the Environment De-Rating Grant.

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood welcomed the announcement.

“The prospect of a zero rate increase by Belfast City Council should be welcomed by domestic and non-domestic property owners,” he said. “It is remarkable that, given the stringent financial environment that we face, the Council should be able to strike a nought per cent increase three years in a row. It shows that through good financial management by officers and councilors, you can assist ratepayers but also develop an ambitious investment strategy which will support economic regeneration and tackle social inequalities.

“It is even more remarkable, given that the Council is growing in size, with parts of Lisburn and Castlereagh coming on board on April 1.The combination of the zero rates increase and the rates convergence relief means that ratepayers from former Lisburn and Castlereagh areas will face minimal rate increases when the 1.4 per cent regional increase is taken into account.”