19 May 2022

Council passes rates taskforce motion

Council passes rates taskforce motion

Cllr John McGowan: "There is an onus on Council to take a more strategic and planned approach to our finances."

Derry City & Strabane District Council has agreed to establish a taskforce to take a more long-term and strategic approach to the rates process.

The move follows a proposal from Sinn Féin Councillor John McGowan who said it would help protect ratepayers and services in the face of rising costs.

In the tabled motion at the recent full meeting of the Council, Cllr McGowan said: “In light of the continuing financial pressures on council and our rate payers it is incumbent on Derry City & Strabane District Council to work to keep these pressures under control and work towards striking as low a rate as possible.

“Therefore Council will establish a working group that will meet bi-monthly to oversee council finances, this will allow for in depth examination of the finances and thus providing for the most prudent decision-making, reducing the burden on rate payers.”

The motion was passed unanimously – a result welcome by Cllr McGowan.

He added: “Spiralling costs are impacting on households and public services across the North and with no support expected from the British Government, there is an onus on Council to take a more strategic and planned approach to our finances in this difficult context.

“The establishment of the working group involving elected representatives from all groupings and Independents working alongside council officers, will enable us to scrutinise our financial position on a bi-monthly basis so we can prepare for our annual rates setting process with a much firmer understanding of where cost pressures may lie.

“This working group will ensure all representatives have a clear understanding of our financial position which will hopefully allow us to collectively agree a rates figure which meets this council's needs without placing undue pressure on our citizens.”

During the debate on Cllr McGowan's motion Ald Devenny (DUP) said his party would support the motion as the sharp rate of rises in energy bills ensured that people struggling to make ends meet were being forced to live in 'crazyland'.

He said: “The DUP have no problem in supporting this motion. I think it's good that we will get into the discussion of the rates for next year.

“It will give everyone who attends those meetings a very clear insight into where our money is being spent.

“On the wider issue, we do realise that there is a cost of living crisis and that there are serious concerns with those who have had no pay increases. We've seen the prices of heating oil and gas go up again and electricity as well – we're in 'crazyland' at the minute with the cost of living and there seems to be no controls to monitor it.”

Cllr Shaun Harkin (PBP) said that he would also support the motion. He added: “Our party policy is that as long as there is austerity, as long as honest workers are not getting pay-increases and as long as there is a cost of living crisis, we can't further burden working-class communities with increased rates cost.”

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