20 May 2022

Council is £68.7m in debt

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have confirmed they are £68.7m in debt.

Council is £68.7m in debt

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have confirmed they are £68.7m in debt.

Last Tuesday, the council voted to bring in independent financial advisors to help in the cash crisis.

It followed reports that the cash strapped council asked leisure workers to take a pay cut or face their contracts being terminated.

In a council statement, a spokesperson said the move to bring in independent financial advisors was to provide "urgent and immediate assistance with the current rate setting process".

Councillors decided to postpone a decision on setting rates until this week, pending further clarification on potential savings.
The multi-million pound debt confession followed an original motion proposed by a group of SDLP councillors calling for the appointment of independent consultants specialising in management assessment and an independent audit.

Councillors Margaret Anne McKillop, Orla Beattie, Stephanie Quigley, Angela Mulholland, Ashleen Schenning, Helena Dallat O’Driscoll put forward the motion.

In a statement released following the meeting, the SDLP group said: “There are serious question marks hanging over our financial affairs and concern about accounts being qualified in the future.

"The most recent Performance Improvement Report, issued in November, indicates that the Council has not performed to the standards expected or addressed the serious issues confronting it.

"Information from the Northern Ireland Audit Office has confirmed Causeway Coast and Glens is performing well below the other 10 councils.

“This cannot be ignored by elected representatives and this is why we called for the appointment of independent consultants to examine root and branch the senior workings of this council.

They continued: “As elected representatives, we are required to adhere to a code of conduct based on the 7 principles of public life.

"Principally, we are servants of the public and stewards of public resources.

"We have a moral responsibility to our constituents to take control of the situation, to correct it and to ensure that it does not happen again.

"We also have an obligation to demand openness and transparency.

The SDLP group concluded: “The harsh reality is that this Council is at financial breaking point and is quickly losing the trust of
the public. This huge debt is seen by an increasing number of people as poor management and we need to rectify that.

“We are delighted that our motion was passed to call in independent experts to meticulously detail what the problems are and more importantly, what the long-term solutions are. Only then will it be able to regain the public’s confidence”.

A motion, proposed by Sinn Féin Councillor Cara McShane on the appointment of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) into Causeway Coast and Glens was also passed on Tuesday.

The council agreed to appoint CIPFA and to defer any decision on rates ahead of the legal timeframe of 15 February.

They said this was to allow CIPFA to make recommendations, report to members and work with council to prepare a medium term financial plan and financial resilience review.

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