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Group plan protest at council buildings

A protest is to be held outside the headquarters of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in Coleraine this evening.

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A protest is to be held outside the headquarters of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in Coleraine this evening.

A group calling themselves Causeway Coast & Glens Council Debt Watch have organised the protest to call for a forensic audit of the council’s financial processes and procedures.

The protest will take place ahead of tonight’s full council meeting at Cloonavin, which is due to start at 7:00pm.

A spokesperson for the group said they had experienced a surge in support since first posting last weekend.

They said: “We have almost 1,800 members now in a week on our Facebook page and our sole aim is to get as much support as possible for a forensic audit for our council.

“A motion calling for a forensic audit had been passed following an SDLP motion, but a group of six councillors used a ‘call-in’ motion, similar to Stormont’s petition of concern, to block it.

“There were six councillors who basically said that they would block this demand that had already been passed in council,” said a spokesperson.

“They claimed audits have already been carried out, but our understanding is that these weren’t proper audits and weren’t as detailed as what a forensic audit would be.”

The group say outstanding debt is causing concern among ratepayers who are now faced with a large hike in rates.

“We were told when Moyle joined this super-council that our rates would fall, our services would be better.

“Now we’re looking at an £80m debt and a 7.6% rise in rates.”

Last month, the council voted for a rates increase of 7.65% after figures showed the council had the second-highest level of outstanding debt – £71,188,000 - of all the Northern Ireland councils in 2019.

Causeway Coast & Glens Council Debt Watch say they will continue their action until they get answers.

“If there are no responses, we’ll continue to gather more evidence and we’ll protest again at April’s meeting,”the spokesperson for the group added.

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