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Northern Ireland councils set to furlough more workers


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Derry and Strabane District Council said the financial impact had been "significant".

Derry and Strabane District Council said the financial impact had been "significant".

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Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Derry and Strabane District Council said the financial impact had been "significant".

Hundreds more local council staff could be furloughed within weeks because of financial pressures caused by coronavirus.

Local authorities are under extreme funding pressure because of the pandemic, which has closed down leisure centres.

Income received through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, announced last week by the Department for Communities, will help mitigate the losses.

The scheme aims to prevent redundancies by allowing employers to apply for a government grant to cover 80% of the wages for staff who are placed on temporary leave, also known as being furloughed.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that more than 200 staff at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council would be furloughed following a "significant reduction" in revenue streams from arts, tourism and leisure services, which affected its ability to pay employee wages.

A further 350 staff have been affected in Mid Ulster District Council, which said it was facing "severe financial losses" of approximately £620,000 per month as a result of Covid-19.

If accepted for the job retention scheme, losses at the council could be reduced by around £280,000 per month.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said it had furloughed 128 agency staff with the commitment that they will all return to complete their respective assignments.

Its officials are also moving to furlough a further 124 council employees.

Last week Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council announced proposals to make 73 members of staff redundant across five departments.

A decision on 46 of the jobs has since been deferred.

However, the remaining 27 workers, all of them agency staff, are being laid off.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph this week, most of the remaining local councils said the matter was under consideration.

While Derry City and Strabane District Council said it had no plans to furlough or lay staff off, it accepted the financial impact of coronavirus was "significant".

Following the directive from Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey that councils can apply for the job retention scheme, Ards and North Down Borough Council said it was discussing furloughing workers with trade unions.

Belfast City Council, the largest local authority, said that while no decision had been made about temporarily laying off staff, the matter was under review.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is also considering the matter.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said it would avail of the scheme, but it did not yet know how many employees would be affected.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said it was considering its position.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said that while no employees had been furloughed, staffing remained under regular review.

Belfast Telegraph