By Peter Moor.
The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) has warned that councils here are fast approaching "a financial endgame with catastrophic outcomes for the community.”
They say this is because of a reduction of income during the COVID-19 pandemic whilst still having to provide vital services to communities.
The group's Chief Executive, Derek McCallan says: “NILGA has explicitly highlighted that unless councils receive the type of un-ring fenced support all other UK councils have received in the short term - until end of June - and in the medium term - looking into the next financial year, to offset irretrievable losses of hundreds of millions of pounds of rates based revenues here in NI, then institutional collapse or severe cuts in services will ensue.
"Support for the 22 Welsh and 32 Scottish councils has been agreed, by the respective Assemblies, not linked to services but their survival, because of the consequences in the community.”
“Unless our regional and national government apply the same policy and proportionate funding as exists dynamically in every other region of the UK, for what councils do here, many redundancies may follow, seriously undermining the economy, and at a time when councils are being asked to do more.
"These steps are not being considered as options – but as a last resort.”
“Meanwhile councils continue to recognise that saving lives, maintaining public health, and providing the planning, development and regulatory tools for the private sector to get back to work when it is safe to do so, is essential, which councils will do every day – until they run out of money.”
He added: “Our local councils need greater direct financial support, which will yield many, many times the return on the investment for government, the communities they serve and the workforce which is retained as a result. We are not financed like Government departments and are using reserves and putting communities first.”
“NILGA has asked for further engagement with Ministers, officials and Committees & an immediate recall of the Ministerial / Council Partnership Panel so we can work through the steps necessary to ensure recovery. Similarly, we have asked Treasury in Westminster to support more finance for Northern Ireland, which ultimately would see a completely new public sector model here.”