Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council has a £3.6m surplus

Independent councillor Paul Gallagher has warned that a balance needs to be struck between rates and council spending after Derry City and Strabane District Council announced a surplus of £3.6 million for the last financial year.

Speaking after the surplus was reported to the council's governance and strategic planning committee, Councillor Gallagher said: "People's rates have been going up year after year.

"We see businesses closing because of rises in rates and people out of employment because of rises in rates.

"We need to strike the right balance."

The £3.6 million will be channelled back into a number of council profits, the council's lead finance officer Alfie Dallas told the committee.

“This is a very positive position and represents prudent financial management and also Council's focus on driving efficiencies as part of the rates process.

"The savings realised will enable council to invest in growth as well as address a range of additional demands on council’s finances, including significant flooding repair costs.

“While this is welcome news, we should be aware that council still faces many financial challenges presented by central government budget cuts, and in particular the rates support grant.

"It is important that council continues to lobby central government to ensure that cuts to essential grants do not offset the ongoing success and investment achieved through council's efficiency programme.”

The savings have been made mainly through improved efficiencies across council which is a key element in funding council’s growth ambitions as set out in the Strategic Growth Plan for the city and district.

Welcoming the report, newly appointed chair of the committee Councillor Gus Hastings said: “I am delighted to see such significant resources now being made available for other projects which will benefit local people right across Derry and Strabane.

“I want to acknowledge the work of council’s lead finance officer in bringing us this report, and the prudent financial management and improved efficiency which has resulted in these savings.”

Members approved the financial outturn including the proposed transfers to reserves of £3.509m and the remaining surplus of £103,000 to be carried into council’s District Fund, where they can be used to meet funding requirements for a range of projects, including progressing plans for a City Growth Deal, the delivery of the Local Development Plan, the upgrade of leisure services and £1m earmarked for strategic Capital Development Projects.

Members were also told that there will be sufficient provision remaining within funding set aside to progress further flooding repair works including the replacement of the Plumbridge and Donemana pitches and MUGAs, with work beginning immediately.

The final council audited accounts will come before the audit committee for full ratification in September.

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