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Stormont must restore funding for Rates Support Grant, says People Before Profit Councillor

'Derry and Strabane has lost out on more than £1 million in funding'

Shaun Harkin

Shaun Harkin who is to contest the General Election in Foyle for People Before Profit.

A Derry councillor has called for the rates support grant to be "fully restored and increased" to protect those who have been "hammered" by cuts to public services and welfare reform. 

People Before Profit Cllr Shaun Harkin said: "Currently the Council is deliberating setting rates for next year. People Before Profit firmly believe ratepayers in Derry and Strabane should not be saddled with further increases.

"Those who've been hammered with pay freezes, cuts to public services, double-digit utility price hikes, welfare reforms and other price increases should not be asked to carry further financial burdens. We have called on the Stormont Executive to immediately restore funding for the Rates Support Grant. 

"As a less well off district area Derry and Strabane is a recipient of the grant - but it has been systematically cut for almost a decade. From £20.5 million it has been cut 22.5% to less than £16 million. As a result, Derry and Strabane has lost out on more than £1 million in funding. This is a funding loss for vital services here that could have kept rates lower for people in Derry and Strabane. 

"If Stormont ministers refuse to act we will lose further hundreds of thousands of funding this year."

He added: "When Stormont was down top civil servants dismissed calls to have funding restored and continued to slash the grant leading to more pressures on the Council to maintain services. 

"People Before Profit got agreement from the full Council to call on the newly restored Stormont Executive to end cuts to the grant this year, to increase the grant and to backdate funding for cuts that have been made. 

"If the Executive is serious about prioritising support and investment for the North West it needs to start here. 

"After initially ignoring requests from the Council for urgent meetings ahead of striking rates, it has now been confirmed Minister's for Communities and Finance have agreed to meet with Derry and Strabane Councillors. 

"We are not going to Stormont with a begging bowl. The New Approach, New Decade document includes a swathe of commitments to Derry and the North West. Delivery on this needs to start now. The Rates Support Grant should be fully restored and increased." 

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