Belfast Telegraph

Local council services 'at risk'

Local council services for the most vulnerable could be slashed because of a £16 million budget shortfall at the Environment Department, it has been revealed.

Part of the grant which local authorities receive from the department is to be reduced due to massive savings demanded from the public purse.

The money axed - more than £1 million - is designed to target those in need in council areas with more people in poverty.

President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Authority (Nilga) John Matthews said: "It is a shocking blow for councils who have already budgeted for the funds committed by the department, to now find additional money to ensure the services will continue to be provided.

"Some councils may have no alternative but to cut services to address the funding shortfall."

Strabane is one of the worst affected councils and faces saving £110,000. Newry and Mourne is another area badly impacted.

Further cuts this year cannot be ruled out, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said. A total of 10 councils will have more than £60,000 withdrawn.

Mr Matthews said: "Nilga representatives have requested an urgent meeting with minister Poots to raise our concerns at these proposed cuts and would request that no cuts are implemented until this meeting takes place, as it is important that all avenues are investigated first.

"Any proposed cuts to funds which will have an adverse impact on services must be discussed and contingency plans put in place. Changes to funding should not be imposed halfway through the year when the funds have already been allocated. We find this a very unsatisfactory position for local government."

A DoE spokeswoman said all areas of the public sector face severe and unprecedented economic constraints. Its shortfall for this financial year is more than £16 million, more than 12% of its opening budget.


From Belfast Telegraph