Over a week ago now the Causeway Coast & Glens Council were due to strike the rates for the borough, but instead a motion was passed by Councillors to seek further advice and assistance from Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to provide advice and assistance.
A special Council meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday (February 12th) in order to give CIPFA time to prepare a report for the councillors. As well as this report Councillors discussed a list of proposed saving to tackle the Councils debt crisis of more that $70m.
COST CUTS AGREED
Cuts totalling £2.2m have now been approved by Councillors with a blow for one of the biggest events on the Causeway Coast, The Portrush Air Show, having £240,000 worth of funding removed. It was confirmed on Thursday that due to this cut in funding Airwaves Portrush would no longer go ahead this year.
This is just one of a number of cuts to leisure & tourism with the closure of Waterworld another, saving approximately £80,000. Another big area that has been trimmed is Environmental services with recycling centres seeing a reduction in services as opening hours are cut.
However the NW200 has survived the cut relatively unscaved, but it does seems that Council will no longer run the race week events, a possible saving of up to £20,000.
When it came to striking the rates, Wednesday nights meeting ran on to midnight when it was adjourned for the second time to the following evening, as Councillors had been in the Council Chamber for five hours by this stage
However on returning to the chamber on Thursday evening, the agreed savings along with the CIPFA report have allowed Councillors to now strike this years rates:
- Domestic Rate: increase of 7.65%
- Non Domestic Rate: 0.01%
The rates were supported by the DUP, UUP and Alliance. The DUPs John Finlay has said:
“This is not a rate increase we wanted but none the less, we will aim to bring the council into a stable footing.
“We will now work to make sure we find out the reasons behind the debt and ensure this will not happen again in the future.”
A motion put forward at the previous Council meeting by the SDLP called for a ‘forensic audit’. This motion was passed by a majority. Despite this, it has now been revealed that a number of Unionist Councillors may be attempting to block this external audit.
Speaking earlier today, Independent Councillor Padraig McShane has claimed ‘a call-in on the proposals for an external forensic audit of Causeway Coast and Glens were based on the absolute fear of what the Audit would expose’.
Going on Mr McShane continued:
“There is no rational explanation to the call in. The Councillors who signed this declaration must now explain their actions to the public.
“The public need to be fully informed of what exactly happened in Causeway Coast and Glens. To slap a huge rates increase on this community and expect them to accept it without recourse to the truth is appalling.”
“Councillors appear to be aloof and distant from the hardships faced by the business sector and householders within our community.“
Six councillors have signed the call-in, these were Norman Hillis UUP, William McCandless UUP and Joan Baird UUP, the George Duddy DUP, Michelle Knight-McQuillan DUP and the PUP’s Russell Watton.
The call-in document reads:
“introduced without prior consultation with parties and therefore the decision was not thoroughly debated and discussed over an appropriate time period through the relevant committee structures”.
“so major and affecting all levels of employees of the council and was taken without any HR or employment law advice and therefore could have major financial and HR implications.”