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Coronavirus: Mid Ulster Council to furlough hundreds of staff

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Council chair Martin Kearney

Council chair Martin Kearney

Council chair Martin Kearney

Mid Ulster District Council is to seek to furlough 350 staff, it has been confirmed.

The council claims it is facing “severe financial losses” of “approximately £620,000 per month” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mid Ulster District Council hopes, that if accepted for the scheme, losses could be offset by £280,000 per month.

The council has also confirmed employees who are furloughed will not lose out financially.

Following confirmation from Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey that councils could avail of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council confirmed it would apply to the scheme.

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Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

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Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

“We are assessing the impact of the coronavirus on our finances and exploring how that financial loss can be best mitigated,” said a council spokesperson.

“Council currently has no plans to reduce services due to the financial pressure associated with COVID-19. The Council is to apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help offset its severe financial losses which stand at approximately £620,000 per month as a result of the pandemic.

“A total of 350 staff, the majority of whom work in the leisure, culture and tourism service, are to be furloughed and none will suffer any financial detriment.

“If the application is accepted, the council’s current losses could be offset by approximately £280,000 per month.”

Speaking about the decision to apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Martin Kearney, said taking the opportunity to mitigate against the losses was prudent and in the interest of ratepayers.

“Councils across the board have been dealing with mounting losses,” he said.

“Particularly with the closure of leisure and cultural facilities, and we anticipate even greater financial challenges in the future with the likely shrinking of our rates base.

“In implementing the scheme, the council is being financially prudent, demonstrating a commitment to minimising the impact of the pandemic on our ratepayers and helping to protect employment.

“Ultimately the scheme will benefit both the organisation and our residents.”

The council also confirmed there are “no current plans to implement any further changes to staffing”.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey confirmed councils could apply for the furlough scheme after Newtownabbey and Antrim Borough Council said 73 jobs were at risk because of financial pressures. It later deferred a decision on 46 jobs after the minister's intervention.

Minister Hargey said: “I can confirm that councils are eligible to apply to furlough staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“My priority has been to ensure the rights of workers are respected and to protect jobs.

“This is a very difficult time for everybody. Our 11 councils provide very important functions and services, continuing to do so during this emergency and looking ahead councils need to be ready to play their part in the economic recovery.

“I am pleased to be able to provide clarity about this issue and most importantly, to ensure that council workers jobs are protected.”

Belfast Telegraph