Public put questions to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Members of the public took the opportunity to put their questions and comments directly to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council this week.

The Braid in Ballymena

Recently, Council invited members of the public who live, work or study in the Borough to put their questions to Elected Members and officers at Council.

The Council introduced public questions to its full meetings so that citizens feel properly engaged with Council, and we want your input, views and feedback as we work to deliver the very best public services throughout the community, including waste collections, recycling, leisure services, business support, parks, funding, economic development, health and wellbeing, and much more.   

As the transformation of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council continues, we are committed to championing openness and transparency, and the introduction of public questions at meetings of the Full Council is another demonstration of that commitment.

Questions received and responded to at this week's Council meeting were:

Question 1 Linda Weir:

Why do we continue to use recycling boxes? Everybody, absolutely everyone, hates them.

They're awkward and heavy to lift. Every recycle day there are broken boxes and lids strewn along the road with escaped litter.

How could the constant replacement of these be economical?


Council is currently reviewing options for kerbside recycling to provide a more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly waste collection service.

Council has pledged to keep its citizens fully informed on proposals to rollout a new service and the public consultation on kerbside recycling will be part of that process. 

Following the outcome of this process, and agreement with Elected Members on the preferred way forward, Council will apply for funding to a introduce new kerbside waste collection service throughout the Borough. 

(All rates questions below are taken together and responded to further down this page)

Question 2 Richard Railton:

Please justify the large increase in rates for the incoming year and what improvements we can expect to see.

Question 4 Ray Wilson:

Why has The council increased rates to one of the highest in the UK at near 10%? Can anyone give justification for such an increase? 

Causeway Council who is in dire need of capital didn't even increase as much so why the hike for MEA?

We have a bigger rates bill than every city in Northern Ireland, how can this be justified? 

Also, can they tell all ratepayers how this will be spent to good effect and benefit of the people?

Question 5 Stephen Saulters:

My question is to the councillors who saw fit to increase the council tax to one of, if not the highest in the country - for working families who are already under so much financial strain how can you justify such a hike in cost?

Further burdening the families you are supposed to be representing?

From what I can see only the TUV have forwarded motions to cut cost, the rest seem happy to write blank cheques at a cost to your constituents. 

Question 6 Kim Elliott:

Why are our rates the highest in NI and what extra can we expect to see for that money?

And were the public consulted before high expenditure decisions were taken?

Question 10 Jordan McCaughern:

With the cost of living crisis we are in at the moment why do you think it is acceptable to the high rate increase?

Not even the capital city of this country got such an increase!

Question 12 Stacey Kennedy:

Why do Mid and Easst Antrim have the highest increase in rates?

What is the reason for such a large increase and how is this going to benefit the local people?

Question 14 William Kyle:

How can you justify such a high rates increase in the current climate of struggle for everyone?

Cost of living crisis, people using food banks etc... in a town that once was full of local businesses, now full of empty shops and charity outlets...

Question 15 Celine Darragh:

Why have our rates been increased by so much more than other council areas?


As you have noted, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed an increase in the domestic district rate of 9.78% for 2024/25.

In cash terms, this will mean an average weekly increased charge of £1.39 (or £72.03 per year).

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council portion of rates amounts to just under 50% of the rates bills received by citizens in Mid and East Antrim, with the remainder set by the Stormont Executive.

By way of context, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been traditionally set a lower level of Rate, when compared to other Councils, often below the level even of inflation.

That has meant, that gradually, Council has absorbed more cost internally and not passed that onto our local Ratepayer.

However, there were a number of very difficult circumstances which faced MEABC this financial year.

Locally, these include:

  • In early February 2024, Council was informed that rateable income from the Borough’s largest ratepayer – Kilroot Energy Park – will be temporarily reduced by approximately £1.7m, which equates to an estimated impact on Mid and East Antrim’s forecasted rate projections for next year of 2.7%.
  • Additional projected Council service running costs of almost £12.2m over the next year due to soaring energy bills, rising staff costs, waste management fees and vehicle provision and maintenance commitments.
  • Next year’s budget also includes vital invest-to-save measures which will require an initial outlay before delivering significant savings as part of the ongoing transformation of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

    These include changes to staffing structures and investment in services to boost efficiency and value for money at Council.

To mitigate the impact on Ratepayers, Council has also committed to delivering savings of £6.85m in the next financial year to meet the agreed budget, with all spend of public money subject to enhanced and more robust scrutiny, accountability and transparency measures.

Elected Members and Council officers worked together for several months to strike a rate that continues to support residents and deliver services that are important to the wellbeing of all. 

This includes continuing to support communities through a range of support services whilst making sure we continue to address public sector financial pressures.

Throughout we will continue to deliver regeneration and infrastructure projects that promotes what Mid and East Antrim has to offer as a place to live, work and grow.

Council continues to provide value to its Ratepayers. For example, forthcoming major projects in the Borough include but are not limited to:

  • The £80m investment throughout Mid and East Antrim from Belfast Region City Deal; 
  • £7m investment at Carnfunnock Country Park in conjunction with the UK Levelling-Up Fund;
  • purchase of new energy-efficient waste and fleet vehicles for Council; 
  • continued delivery of play park improvements, including at the flagship Marine Gardens facility in Carrickfergus; and 
  • Rollout of synthetic sports pitches.

This response has been updated to correct an inaccuracy in the original.

Question 3 Mark Wilson:

Will the money got for sale of council property in Larne be put back into Larne town?


The proceeds of any sale of Council property are treated as a capital receipt and can only be spent for capital purposes and not ongoing revenue costs.

Council has an ambitious capital plan over the next four years which requires capital expenditure across the whole Borough. Currently capital money is being used in projects being delivered in Carnlough, Glenarm, Drains Bay, Millbrook, Glynn, Islandmagee and Larne. 

Key projects in Larne town include a new cemetery, skateboard park in Larne Town Park and upgrades to play areas.

In terms of ringfencing money from one area to be spent in that area, this matter has not been discussed or agreed by Council.

Question 7 Alasdair McBroom:

Whitehead desperately needs attention to the car park area at the shore. In summer there can be 20-30 motorhomes per night stopping over. It is an extremely popular walking spot.

We need a toilet block at the shore to replace the one that was always there.

Every other coastal town along the Antrim Coast has one.

The toilets at the tennis courts are simply not a viable alternative.

When will this be remedied?

Find the funding.


Like all coastal towns and villages in the Borough Whitehead does have toilet provision at the Recreation Grounds which were refurbished in 2018. 

Council recognises the importance of Blackhead Path to Whitehead and the wider Borough and in May 2020 completed a £3.3m upgrade to the coastal path.

The use of the car park by motor homes during summer is not an activity regulated or authorised by Council.

Council determined in 2017 that information and signage be put in place at the coastal path stating that the nearest public convenience is at the Whitehead Recreation Grounds.

Question 8 Carla Elliott:

I just would like to know why everything is getting closed down for kids to go to ie (NAME REDACTED) there's nowhere in Ballymena for young children to go or the older children.

Yes, I see you are updating the swimming pool but you do realise that we are going to other boroughs to spend our money for our children that could be getting spent in Ballymena if yous had the things that was took away then there would be money coming into our council areas.


In relation to the reference to the closure of (NAME REDCATED), this is a private business and therefore Council is not in a position to comment on that closure decision.

Council acknowledges that there is a need for additional children’s/youth leisure entertainment provision in the Ballymena area, and Council has been seeking comment/ feedback on the draft proposals for the new Health & Wellbeing Centre in Ballymena which will include a children’s/youth leisure component.

The proposals will remain on public exhibition at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre from Friday 8 March 2024 until Wednesday 10 April 2024 (during the opening hours of the Leisure Centre) and comments and feedback is welcome.

In the immediate term, Council has chosen not to increase Leisure membership fees in the FY 2024/25, which is intended to encourage increased adult and youth Leisure membership and participation.

Council has also recently completed a new skateboard park for older children/teens in the People’s Park and this is proving to be a popular addition to the recreational facilities.

Council also continue to upgrade and provide enhanced play facilities throughout the Borough which cater for all needs.

Council would also highlight the many youth organisations which exist within the Borough and which provide a range of activities and programmes.

Council will of course always be open to consider new ideas or proposals which are feasible, deliverable and affordable.

Quesion 9 Sheena Murphy:

When will the leisure centre start to open earlier than a Sunday.

Antrim pool was always full on a Sunday prior to the refurb.

Ballymena opening at 12.30pm demonstrates a lack of insight and results in a lack of income.


As part of Council's ongoing leisure transformation project, Council are keen to maximise the use of all pools across our three leisure centres and offer the best range of affordable activities for the benefit of residents.

The current Sunday opening times in Seven Towers Leisure Centre are subject to ongoing review based on usage and operational analysis.

Council will consider proposals that seek to extend opening times; however, such proposals will need to be both operationally feasible and within current budget provision.

Question 11 Claire Scullion:

I frequently bypass my council area to go to Antrim and Newtownabbey to avail of their services for families including events and leisure facilities.

Will the Council make it a priority to spend our money on facilities that benefit all the community and allow us to be a healthier population.

For example, I don't feel safe running in the Ecos Centre as it's too overgrown.

Can we please have safe facilities for walking, running, cycling at night or with young children?

The People's Park is too small for this.


Council has recently approved an ambitious Capital Programme for the FY 2024 – 2028, which will provide extensive new Leisure and Recreational Facilities for the Borough.

In terms of Arts & Cultural facilities, Council offers a wide range of experiences, such as the Carrickfergus Museum, the Larne Museum & Arts Centre, the Mid-Antrim Museum at the Braid Centre. 

In addition, Council maintains a number of historic cottages (Arthur Cottage, Andrew Jackson Cottage & US Rangers Museum) which offer free admission and provide a range of educational artefacts, stories and events for all ages. 

Carrickfergus Museum also includes a ‘Play Zone’ specifically aimed at under 5s.

An extensive Programme of Arts and Heritage events are run by Council throughout the year, including activity aimed at young people and families.

For example, ‘Super Saturdays’ at Carrickfergus Museum are free sessions for under 5s which take place on the first Saturday of each month.

Aimed at supporting early years development, the sessions feature sensory, hands-on activities including storytelling, music, dance, and crafts.

Question 13 Samuel Weatherup:

Why if our Council is in so much debt - are we outsourcing all our CPC driver courses instead of keeping it in-house to save money?

It must be very expensive to pay (NAME REDACTED) for this service.


It is not currently cost effective to have this specialist training carried out in house due to the level of training required to ensure the trainer is competent to provide the training. 

Council would be required to set up as an approved training centre and training course.

There are on-going costs every time a driver CPC course is run, this includes classroom fees, certificate fees and the Council would not have enough drivers who require driver CPC training to fill each training class. 

Question 16 Marie Smyth:

I would like to know what regeneration plans the Council have for Larne especially with regards to the abandoned and derelict buildings in the town centre - Main Street, Dunluce Street, Point Street and Cross Street. 

Thank you.


Council would accept that there has been a persistent dereliction issue within Larne Town Centre over the last four years.

A range of actions have been deployed by Council during this period in an attempt to address this problem.

That would include:

  • Delivery of the current shopfront improvement grant scheme to revitalise the Borough Town Centre’s, including Larne, which has resulted in 107 applications for grants of up to £4,999 towards shop front improvements ranging from new signage to replacement windows and doors, repainting, and other minor repair works to property frontages, and with £275,000 in grant assistance awarded to businesses between December 2023 and February 2024.
  • Delivery of a wider “Town Centre Revitalisation Scheme” to include Town Centre upgrades including Larne, such as installing feature lighting in key areas, mural artworks, public address sound systems, and new public seating. 
  • Public realm upgrade works such as the recently completed Point St and Lower Cross Street in Larne. 

However, up to now, there has not been a specific dedicated Dereliction Strategy to address the problems within Larne Town Centre.

Members have now approved the development of a Dereliction Intervention Strategy, and as part of this learning process, Council will be seeking the advice of Town Centre Design experts within the NI Public and Private Sectors and will soon be commissioning an extensive stakeholder engagement with local people in Larne to inform the development of a Masterplan for the key areas around Main Street, Dunluce Street and Point Street/Lower Cross Street and the surrounding area.