‘Massive risk’ over cut to rates support

Guildhall
Guildhall

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Lead Finance Officer Alfie Dallas has warned an 18 per cent ‘cut’ to £18.3m in rates support funding due to be allocated to the poorest council areas in the North this year represents a “massive risk” to the local authority.

The city accountant made the comments after the Department for Communities wrote to the council to advise that due to the absence of an agreed budget at Stormont only £15m of the overall pot of Rates Support Grant funding will be allocated at this stage.

In a report to the local authority’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Dallas explained that Derry and Strabane were due 20.53 per cent (£3,756,990) of this funding, which represented 6.68 per cent of council’s total net expenditure. He said DfC had written to the council advising the cut was an ‘interim’ measure. But he warned that if the cut wasn’t revised it could result in a £677,385 loss to council. This, he said, represented a “massive risk” and he asked members to approve a reply to DfC insisting the council was treating the cut as an ‘interim’ measure only.

Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming said it was “obviously a very concerning scenario and a major challenge that could be replicated across other lines of funding”.

“It’s a challenge to all of us to get the institutions up and running and to get a budget agreed,” he said.