Middleton wants cut of £3.3m exit savings

Londonderry DUP MLA Gary Middleton has called for an estimated £3.3million expected to roll back to the Department of Environment (DoE) from the civil service voluntary exit scheme to reinstate the rates support grant, which, when cut, impacted disproportionately on the Londonderry and Strabane Council compared to other local authorities.

The Londonderry MLA expressed concern about the negative impact of the support grant cut at Stormont last week.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton.

At Thursday’s Environment Committee meeting at Stormont, Mr Middleton questioned the DoE Minister Mark H Durkan on the voluntary exit scheme and the impact it will have on his department.

He said: “The Minister indicated that there will be an estimated saving of £3.3 million pounds as a result of the voluntary exit scheme.

“I outlined my view that the money which will be coming back to the department of environment should be used to support a number of areas, one of which should be the reinstating of the rates support grant, something which when cut impacted the Londonderry and Strabane council disproportionately compared to other councils.”

He called for action as it now approaches crunch time.

“As the 2016 local government rates setting process is fast approaching, the Minister must use the additional money he has available to ensure that the rate payers do not see further significant increases on their rates at a time when there are already increasing pressures following the transfer of functions to councils.

“I look forward to seeing the Minister’s proposals coming forward in the coming weeks.”

Back in June this paper reported how a perfect storm of local government devolution combined with ongoing budget cuts had created a £6.2m blackhole and an added burden for Londonderry ratepayers.

Mayor Elisha McCallion explained that this was due to cuts to the rates support grant, the transferring of functions to local authorities, the disproportionate liability from a number of transferring assets and the lack of capital funds to go along with DSD functions to allow the Council to bring forward capital projects.