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22/09/2021

Derry City and Strabane District Council pledge to use £3.6m savings to bolster the city

Council offices
Council has announced it ended the last financial year with a £3.612m surplus, which will be ploughed into a range of projects including the City Growth Deal and flood repairs. The figure emerged at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee earlier this week. Speaking at the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Fleming said a significant amount of work had gone into compiling the report and his party supported the proposals made in it. “The report is to be welcomed especially given the challenges this council has faced, not least the reduction in the rates support grant,” said Councillor Fleming. “The flooding not just badly damaged homes, businesses and people’s lives but it damaged a fair bit of council property too.” However, Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher that whilst he welcomed efficiency savings there “must be a balance struck and a message sent out to the ratepayer”. “The ratepayer, when they hear about millions going into reserves, might say ‘where is our money going?’ “We see businesses going bust because of the rise in rates and jobs lost and we as a council need to be prudent when we balance our books.” Council’s Lead Finance Officer, Alfie Dallas, said the savings could now be channelled into a range of key strategic priorities for the City and District and address other “significant pressures”. Delivering his report on the year-end financial outturn at the meeting he told members: “This is a very positive position and represents prudent financial management and also Council's focus on driving efficiencies as part of the rates process. “The savings realised will enable council to invest in growth as well as address a range of additional demands on Council’s finances, including significant flooding repair costs. “While this is welcome news, we should be aware that Council still faces many financial challenges presented by Central Government budget cuts, and in particular the Rates Support Grant. “It is important that Council continues to lobby Central Government to ensure that cuts to essential grants do not offset the ongoing success and investment achieved through Council's efficiency programme.” The savings have been made mainly through improved efficiencies across Council which is a key element in funding Council’s growth ambitions as set out in the Strategic Growth Plan for the City and District. Welcoming the report, newly appointed Chair of the Committee Councillor Gus Hastings, who was appointed at last night’s AGM, said: “I am delighted to see such significant resources now being made available for other projects which will benefit local people right across Derry and Strabane. “I want to acknowledge the work of Council’s Lead Finance Officer in bringing us this report, and the prudent financial management and improved efficiency which has resulted in these savings.” Members approved the financial outturn including the proposed transfers to reserves of £3.509m and the remaining surplus of £103K to be carried into Council’s District Fund, where they can be used to meet funding requirements for a range of projects, including progressing plans for a City Growth Deal, the delivery of the Local Development Plan, the upgrade of leisure services and £1m earmarked for strategic Capital Development Projects. Members were also told that there will be sufficient provision remaining within funding set aside to progress further flooding repair works including the replacement of the Plumbridge and Donemana pitches and MUGAs, with work beginning immediately. The final Council audited accounts will come before the Audit Committee for full ratification in September.

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