Venue: Guildhall, Derry. View directions
Notice and Summons of Meeting
The Chief Executive read the Notice and Summons for the Meeting.
Member Attendance and Apologies
Apologies were received from Councillors Gardiner and McKeever.
Declarations of Members' Interests
There were no declarations of interest from Members.
Suspensions of Standing Orders
Councillor Gallagher proposed a suspension of Standing Orders, to allow Council to discuss the alleged ban on the use of the Tricolour at the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in Strabane, as this issue had caused great distress and harm to community relations within the town.
Councillor Gallagher moved, Seconded by Councillor Donnelly
That Standing Orders be suspended to allow discussion on an alleged ban on the use of the Tricolour at the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in Strabane.
The Outcome of the vote was as follows; For 13, Against 26.
The proposal on being put to vote was therefore declared lost.
The Mayor indicated that the matter could be discussed at the end of the meeting.
The Mayor proceeded to address Members on the annual striking of rate for the 2018/19 financial year.
He thanked Members and Officers for their work within this challenging rates process and proposed that Derry City and Strabane District Council make and fix a District Rate of 30.0353p in the £ for Non-Domestic properties and of 0.4683p for Domestic properties for the year ending on 31 March 2019.
He stated that this District Rate increase of 2.99% was less than the current rate of inflation and that the current District Rates bill of £437.97 would increase by £13.10 per annum or 25p per week. He also stated that as property valuations in the District were lower than in other Council areas, the average ratepayer in the Derry City and Strabane District Council Area would continue to pay lower rates than that paid in the majority of other Council Areas.
He highlighted the positive messages within this year’s rate process, in particular the growth and provision of new and enhanced services across the Council area.
He stated that 0.96% of the new rate increase will be invested in the capital programme adding to the £34.4m of projects which have been completed to date by the new Council and a further £63.1m of projects which are in progress and fully funded. He commented on the benefit this investment would bring to achieving the job and skills element of the Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan.
The Mayor expressed his delight to see the positive impact that the investment in growth has made, with rate-base growth well above the Northern Ireland average and the significant contribution this has made to the fall in unemployment numbers across the District.
He also expressed his pleasure in seeing the continued efforts to drive new efficiencies in Council, with a further £244k identified in this year’s budget process bringing total efficiencies realised since amalgamation to almost £2.3m. He indicated that these have given rise to investments in the capital plan, community services provision, festivals and events and cultural venues which have all contributed significantly to the achievement of positive growth indicators.
However, he also expressed his disappointment in noting the pressure now placed on Councils, particularly the impact that cuts in the Rates Support Grant and Community Services has placed on the most deprived Councils. He highlighted the direct district rates impact of 0.76% which he found concerning and emphasised the need to oppose these cuts.
The Mayor congratulated all involved on delivering a rates proposal below the rate of inflation which despite the challenges they faced remain focused on growth. He also praised Officers on the completion of the Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan and the case for a City Growth Deal which will secure necessary Central Government investment for an opportunity to make the City thriving, prosperous and sustainable.
In conclusion the Mayor recommended that Derry City and Strabane. District Council make and fix a District rate of 30.0353p in the £ for non- domestic properties and of 0.4683p ... view the full minutes text for item SC19/18
Chief Executive's Statement
The Chief Executive stated the budget agreed today would continue to drive growth and investment in the City and Region, as well as continuing to deliver on our strategic capital aspirations and investment into jobs and skills.
He highlighted that of the 2.99% increase, 1% represents further investment in growth which has been a key priority for the new Council. He added that this had been enabled by an ongoing efficiency programme in which Council has now delivered almost £2.3m of savings to its annual revenue budget.
He commented on the contribution of the new Council’s investment in festivals and events, culture and tourism, capital plan and community services to the continued rate based growth which is well above the Northern Ireland average.
The Chief Executive specified that no. 662 new residential properties have been occupied in the Council area in the past year, representing 10% of all new residential properties across Northern Ireland. He also specified that the non-domestic rate base had grown by 1.59% compared to a Northern Ireland average of 0.58%. He commented that these high figures represent new investment and business expansion across the Council area which will be accompanied by public sector investment in particular on the new Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin and the new primary education facilities at Ebrington. He welcomed the positive picture for the City in the form of an increase in planning applications and a pipeline of new projects of scale which include the continued development of the Ebrington site and ongoing expansion of Magee University.
The Chief Executive referred to the 11% reduction in 2017 of the unemployment rate currently at 4.7%, compared to a peak of 8.7% in August 2013. He stated that the Jobs and skills investment specified as a part of this year’s rate increase, aims to further improve these figures.
He expressed his disappointment to cuts relating to the Rate Support Grant and community services by Central Government which had a direct rate impact of 0.76%. He highlighted the impact this would have on investment for 7 of Northern Ireland’s 11 Council’s and emphasised the priority which ensuring these cuts are reversed must take.
The Chief Executive stated that despite these challenges,that the 2018/19 budget will continue to deliver high quality services to the Council area. He commented on the progress which Council has made in the deliverance of capital projects of £34.6m in the past 3 years and a further £63m in progress, with a further £20m-£25m of further funding that will be made available by this year’s rates investment. He welcomed the near completion of the £7m redevelopment of Brandywell Stadium, £1.4m Melvin 3G pitch development and £1.27m Drumahoe play projects and indicated that 2018 will see advancement of a wide range of exciting capital projects, including;
· Completion of business case proposals and detailed designs for ambitious new strategic Leisure Facilities at both Templemore and in Strabane.
· Progression of 3 significant cross-border greenway developments from Derry to Buncrana, Derry to Muff, and ... view the full minutes text for item SC20/18
Lead Finance Officer's Statement
The Lead Finance Officer followed on from the Chief Executive’s report and stated that this year’s rates provides a number of key financial messages.
He indicated that the rate increase of 2.99% is made up of 3 elements. 1.27% represents the baseline position, 0.76% relates to the significant central government grant cuts that have been imposed, and 0.96% relates to new investment in our capital plan and jobs and skills interventions. He emphasised that the increase was below inflation increase, and without having had to absorb central government budget cuts and with no growth or capital development ambitions, a 1.27% rates increase could have been achieved.
He continued that the baseline rates increase of 1.27% represented a range of statutory pressures and new initiatives offset by Council’s rate-base growth and continued efficiency programme. In particular, nationally agreed pay awards, including living wage implementation and pension increases had presented a significant challenge in this year’s rates. Increased service provision had also been made for increased waste disposal costs due to Council’s growing population and increased development. This was a significant cost for Council, representing over 12% of the global budget, and a continued focus on recycling and composting was required to ensure these costs were minimised going forward and required targets were met. Other inflationary increases had been absorbed into existing budgets with minimal impact on rates. Provision had also been made for the extension of opening hours in Riversdale Leisure Centre and further investment in rural community services support to provide additional capacity in rural areas aligned to the delivery of the emerging Local Community Plans.
He added that the continued positive growth in Council’s rate-base is very positive with growth significantly in excess of the Northern Ireland average. Council’s efficiency plan had now realised almost £2.3m of efficiencies and Council would continue to seek all opportunities for further efficiencies to free up further funds for growth and investment. Council’s benchmarking analysis against other Council’s provides assurance that Council’s core services represent value for money e.g. leisure was much less expensive in this Council area in comparison to the rest of Northern Ireland. It was also clear that this Council makes significant additional investment in areas of growth such as festivals and events, tourism and capital development, and in areas of need such as community services.
The Lead Finance Officer expressed his feeling that the most challenging and disappointing aspect of this year’s rates was the central government grant cuts which had a direct impact on our rates proposals of 0.76%. The 2 key areas of cuts applied were Rates Support Grant and funding for community services and advice, the very grants which were targeted towards the less wealthy Councils with the highest levels of deprivation. He advised that the Rates Support Grant is an investment and leverage tool, a means by which the no. 7 district councils with lower rates bases receive a critical investment contribution towards creating growth through enterprise and achieving greater equality of service provision and ... view the full minutes text for item SC21/18
Striking of the Rate 2018/19
The Chief Executive presented the following statement and proposal:
As Chief Financial Officer, in line with section 6 Local Government Finance Act 2011, I am required to report on the adequacy of Council’s reserves for a financial year. With due regard to Council’s in-year positive financial position, the medium term plan and Council’s current General Fund balance of £4,693,118, I confirm that this reserve will be adequate for the financing of Council’s services for 2018/19 and is in line with Department for Communities (DfC) guidance of between 5% and 7.5% of the net operating Expenditure.
Further to this, and having considered the detailed report of the Lead Finance Officer, as printed and circulated, on the Rates Estimates for the year ending 31 March, 2018, it is recommended that:-
(a) Council strikes a District Rate Increase of 2.99%.
(b) Council reallocated £200K per annum for 3 years from Council’s new £500K capital rates investment on an interim basis to fund jobs and skills interventions as a key strategic priority within the Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan.
(c) Ongoing lobbying with Central Government continues in relation to the significant budget cuts implemented, in particular the areas of Rates Support Grant and Community Services and Advice Services funding.
(d) Council engages further with Central Government in relation to the significant grant cuts currently forecast produce results, this funding will be recurrently allocated to jobs and skills and the interim allocation will revert back to capital.
Councillor McGinley Moved, Alderman Thompson Seconded that Council agrees the aforementioned recommendations as outlined by the Chief Executive.
The outcome of the vote; For 26, Against 13. The proposal was carried.
Adopted by the Special Council Meeting held on Monday 5 February 2018.
Flying of Tricolour at St. Patrick Day Parade in Strabane
Councillor Carlin addressed Council with reference to this issue, she requested that Council confirm that there is no ban imposed on participants in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations regarding the display of the Irish national flag and associated emblems.
The Director of Business and Culture explained that legislation within Section 75 of the NI Act (1998) stated that that no aspect of any Council activity should be party political and that had given rise to no flags being permitted in the Derry St. Patricks Day Parade since 2004.
The Mayor asked Council to clarify their position, as he did not feel Councillor Carlin’s question had been answered.
The Chief Executive clarified that no ban exists.
Alderman Thompson stated that he felt that the national flag of Northern Ireland was the Union flag and not the Tricolour.
The Mayor stated that Alderman Thompson was entitled to his opinion.
The Mayor stated that since clarification had been given the meeting did not need to continue with any further discussion on this matter.