“Today’s evidence from our colleagues at SOLACE, endorsed by NILGA, reiterates the great work performed by councils, yet the extremely precarious position that NI councils face, due to Covid. We welcome the positive scrutiny and insights taken forward by the Committee.
Whilst we are grateful for significant support from central government from the Department for Communities for income losses & DAERA to ease waste management pressures, councils here have seen their finances devastated since the beginning of lockdown. Rates, service fees and rents from properties make up the lion’s share of council incomes in Northern Ireland. We invest these finances in businesses, the community and those in greatest need.
“To sustain our councils who then support our local communities, businesses and venues and provide key public services, NILGA and SOLACE are asking central government via Stormont and Treasury to guarantee that rates paid to councils will be based on the estimated figure agreed as part of the rate setting process for this and the next two financial years. Central government underwriting all unavoidable and unforeseen financial losses in our councils will allow them to plan for a more positive and a swifter recovery. We are keen to get accurate forecasts to assist forward planning from Land and Property Services colleagues and are working with partners like Retail NI as well as government Departments to establish a High Streets Taskforce - to spearhead the regeneration of our badly-hit town and city centres, post-pandemic.
“Councils will play a hugely important role in Northern Ireland’s recovery from the virus, but only if they are equipped with the long term finances and tools to do so. Recovery will be slow and our competitiveness constrained if councils here aren’t enabled to locally lead this transformation as they are equipped to do in our neighbouring regions. Supporting councils will strengthen communities and locally, successfully fulfil key parts of the Executive’s recovery plan.”