£232k in air marketing pot after sum drawn to promote Loganair

Nearly quarter-of-a-million pounds remains in a Derry City & Strabane District Council administered aviation support fund most recently used to market Loganair’s new Derry to Glasgow route.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 8:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:22 pm
City of Derry Airport celebrated the return of Loganair last year.

However, members of DC&SDC’s Audit, Assurance & Risk (AAR) Committee were divided at their January meeting over how the North West Air Access Consortium (NWAAC) is scrutinised.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher told the committee that he had been “unaware of this money sitting in large pot.”

But Sinn Féin’s Eric McGinley said the NWAAC balance sheet was always clearly listed in DC&SDC’s financial statements and accounts.

The NWAAC was set up twenty years ago to support the marketing of inbound air traffic to Derry.

A cross-border grouping, it was originally comprised of Donegal County Council, the old Derry City Council and Fáilte Ireland, with the active support of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB). The old council formerly contributed to the fund financially but the current council has never done so.

At this month’s AAR Committee meeting councillors were advised that £282,745 remained in the NWAAC fund at the end of the last financial year, however, this had since reduced to £232,745 after a sum was drawn down to market the Derry to Glasgow connection.

“Following the approval by Business & Culture (B&C) Committee and subsequent ratification by Council to use the fund to provide marketing support for the new Loganair route to Glasgow from City of Derry Airport (CoDA) there is a remaining balance of £232,745 in the fund,” it was reported to members.

Colr. Gallagher complained that NWAAC was not being directly scrutinised by the AAR Committee.

He claimed there was a gap in oversight over what, at £232,000, was a significant sum of money.

DC&SDC Chief Executive, John Kelpie, providing clarification, told Colr. Gallagher, that all requests for money from the air support fund were overseen by committees of the local authority. This was most recently the case in the latter part of 2018 when the B&C Committee and then Full Council had approved funding to market the Glasgow route.

Colr. Gallagher claimed that if the AAR Committee had had direct oversight of the fund the Council may not have had to use ratepayers’ money to support CoDA in the past.

Colr. McGinley disagreed and pointed out that the fund was clearly referenced in the DC&SDC accounts, which Colr. Gallagher himself had signed off on.