Council surplus after COVID year ‘incredible’
Derry City & Strabane District Council have come out of the 2020/21 financial year with an ‘incredible’ £1.353 million surplus.
Despite the country remaining in the grip of the global pandemics throughout this period, members of the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee were informed of the positive position Council is in rather than a loss of £10.7m that was predicted at last year’s meeting.
Lead Finance Officer Alfie Dallas spoke about the ‘significant risks the pandemic has placed on finances’.
“Council’s main focus throughout the year has been ensuring all our losses have been recouped from Government and you’ll be aware of the substantial engagement that has taken place,” he said.
“Thankfully, that engagement with the government has definitely paid off so we are reporting for your approval a £1.353 million surplus.
“All our losses have been covered by government which effectively brings us to a break-even position. The total loss support we have received totals over £7.2m and that comes from the Department for Communities, DEARA, through the government furlough scheme, as well as Department for Economy support for the airport.
Mr Dallas explained that without this support ‘we would have faced a very critical financial situation’ and that it was a ‘very positive outcome.’
Members were told that further support received from government to the sum of £4.667m has already been banked for the upcoming financial year.
“We propose the setting up of a new financial reserve called Financial Commitments and Contingencies for those funds to sit within and be used as required throughout the year,” added Mr Dallas.
The year-end out-turn report recommended that Members approve the transfer of £1.3m of the surplus to Council’s general Capital Fund and the transfer of the remaining balance of £53k to Council’s District Fund.
Chief Executive John Kelpie described the year-end outturn report as ‘incredible’.
Councillors on the committee welcomed the report with Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy calling it a ‘hugely positive report’.
“It is good to see we have over £4.6m from the Executive there as well to mitigate against potential losses for the year ahead,” she said.
DUP Alderman Ryan McCready welcomed the detailed report, proposing the recommendations were approved.
Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle spoke of challenges facing ‘many of our citizens’ and called for some of the money to be used to help local advice providers.
Despite thanking Mr Dallas and his team for the report and the work they had done, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said he was ‘bewildered’.
“There’s going to be nobody singing and dancing in the streets of the Creggan or the Bogside and I want to remind this Council that 27% of people in the six counties who are in poverty, are living in this Council district, so I think there’s a lot of people here over-egging the pudding.”
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter