Budget ‘crisis’ looming for new Council?

Independent councillors say a budget crisis is looming at Derry and Strabane Council.
Independent councillors say a budget crisis is looming at Derry and Strabane Council.

Independent councillors on the new Derry and Strabane super council will this week demand a major cash injection for the North West to counter what they describe as “imminent austerity” in the region.

Representatives from Derry and Strabane are due to hold a special meeting with Assembly members later this week to discuss a ‘black hole’ in the new council’s budget.

It’s understood that budget reductions, coupled with an increase in the services that Council must provide, could cost ratepayers here an additional £6.66m. a year.

This is believed to represent more than an eighth of Derry & Strabane Council’s current spend of £52.712m.

However, it’s emerged that the region could face additional costs of more than £10m. in the short term.

Independent councillor Gary Donnelly says it would be ‘utter madness’ to expect the council to function under these constraints.

‘These cuts represent the hidden costs of the so-called transfer of responsibilities from Belfast to the new council,’ he said.

‘The effects of this black hole will impact across many sectors, from jobs in the community sector to staff pension contributions, and from parking charges to road gritting and grass cutting.”

The five independents who sit on Derry & Strabane District Council – Sean Carr, Gary Donnelly, Paul Gallagher, Darren O’Reilly and Damien Quigley – say local ratepayers are already seriously disadvantaged and are not in a position to accept any further austerity.

Darren O’Reilly has called on both Stormont and Westminster to intervene immediately to regenerate the region.

‘Instead of cuts, we need substantial investment,’ he said. ‘We have been promised white elephant after white elephant in the form of One plans, City plans and special Stormont sub-groups.

‘The Northwest doesn’t need another plan – we need direct intervention from central government.”