Northern Ireland

Funding cuts 'will hit' council services

The Department of the Environment is to cut its contribution to 18 council budgets.

The NI local government association has said the funding cuts to councils in Northern Ireland will hit services.

NILGA president John Mathews said the reduction of the department's grant amounted to a cut of £1.15m for 2010/11.

Mr Mathews said ten councils would have funding of over £60k withdrawn with one council having more than £100k withdrawn.

He said that NILGA had requested an urgent meeting with the minister to discuss its concerns over the cuts.

The department said the councils were notified on 23 July of the reduction in the grant that the 18 councils receive.

The funding is based on each council's needs and it is used for different services.

Council receive the funding if their ability to raise money from rates falls below the NI average.

A department spokesperson said the DoE has been "especially hard hit" with a shortfall for 2010/11 in excess of £16m.

Services

The spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, despite considerable efforts to protect the overall resources element of the general grant baseline of £19.5m, the department has had to make the very difficult decision of an in-year £1.15m cut to this grant."

The spokesperson also said the possibility of further cuts "cannot be ruled out" for the remainder of the 2010/11 financial year.

On Friday, Mr Mathews said; "It is a shocking blow for councils who have already budgeted for the funds committed by the department, to now find additional money to ensure the services will continue to be provided.

"Alternatively, some councils may have no alternative but to cut services to address the funding shortfall."

In April, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson detailed £367m of cuts throughout 2010.

But further cuts will be required in the autumn when the government announces it plans in the Comprehensive Spending Review.