Assembly Committee Challenges Department To Protect Rates Grants To Local Government
Date: 13 December 2010
Reference: ENV 06/10/11
The Assembly Committee for the Environment today released its report on the Local Government (Finance) Bill. The Bill sets out measures to give councils more control over the management of their own financial affairs.
Committee Chairperson, Cathal Boylan MLA said: “While the Committee has considered all elements of this Bill in detail, there is one area in particular in which it has taken great interest.
“Part of this Bill relates to the provision of a Rates Support Grant (previously the Resources Grant) to local councils that are unable to generate sufficient funds from the collection of rates. 18 councils qualified for the grant this year. However in July the Department cut grants by 5.9% leaving these councils with a shortfall in funds. Having set their rates earlier in the year the councils had no way to recoup this money through other means. The Committee felt this was unfair. Councils are only able to collect rates once a year and the Committee is of the opinion that the Department should not be able to reduce grants half way through the year leaving councils in grave financial difficulty.
“The Committee accepts the Department will need to review and revise the Rates Support Grant regularly, but it should do this at the start of the financial year, not part way through it. The Committee will be taking forward the recommendation that the Bill be amended to prevent in-year cuts to this grant.”