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Councillors want to see audit carried out into Covid-19 support programmes

Access to Food and Financial Inclusion programmes launched to help those facing hardship

Derry City and Strabane District Council spend £2.7m on 'exit packages' for 23 employees in the last two years

Derry City and Strabane District Council's headquarters at Strand Road.

Councillors today discussed calls for an audit into two programmes supported by Derry City and Strabane District to help people impacted by the pandemic.

The Access to Food Programme and the Financial Inclusion Programme were both launched in recent months in response to the hardship being faced by many local people.

For the Access to Food Programme, the local council received £220,000 from the Department of Communities to help alleviate food poverty.

In relation to the Financial Inclusion Programme, £80,000 was allocated through the council to three local advice centres to enable them to provide support to people experiencing debt or financial problems.

At the council's monthly meeting today, Aontu councillor Emmet Doyle put forward a motion asking for an audit of the programmes.

Speaking at a meeting earlier this month of the council's Assurance, Audit and Risk Committee, Cllr Doyle had raised concerns around elements of the Financial Inclusion Programme.

His motion put forward today requested that the council ask its internal audit team to carry out an audit of the Financial Inclusion Programme and 'all tranches' of the Access to Food Programme in relation to advice provision referrals.

The motion asked that a report be prepared for the council's Assurance, Audit and Risk Committee.

However, Mayor Brian Tierney, who chairs the monthly meetings, declined to allow the motion to be debated because the required notice for motions to come before council meetings had not been given.

Cllr Tierney said he had no issue with the topic of the motion, but added that he had to follow the 'proper procedure'.

He told Cllr Doyle that he was welcome to bring the motion to the council's next full meeting.

People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin said he 'respected but disagreed' with the Mayor's decision not to let the discussion on Cllr Doyle's motion to take place.

“We need to treat this issue very seriously, there has to be transparency. I think it is unfortunate that we are going to be delaying this for who knows how long,” he said.

Independent councillor Gary Donnelly said there was a 'considerable amount of anger' over issues around the programmes.

Cllr Donnelly said there were issues in relation to 'where people's data is going'.

He said carrying out the audits would reassure people that the council was acting in an 'equitable way'.

Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy said she would support the audit motion.

“There has been a lot of allegations thrown into the mix and what has actually been missing from all this is facts,” said Cllr Duffy.

“So I would be quite happy to see an investigation take place so that facts can actually be presented to people and particularly to the public who are being mislead and who are hearing allegations being made without any evidence to back them up at this point.”

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