Northern Ireland local authority chiefs have criticised as ‘anti-investment’ a proposal to cut nearly £20m of support from Stormont.
A budgetary briefing paper from the Northern Ireland devolved government's Department of Finance has floated the idea of removing the Rates Support Grant which distributes £17.6m to councils.
The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) argues such a proposal could mean as many as seven out of the 11 councils would lose out on leveraging tens of millions of pounds in economic development capabilities.
The NILGA estimates the fund leverages £183m per year into the private sector and social economy.
‘We understand that this is just a proposal at present and not a settlement, but the fact that it is being highlighted at this early stage is extremely worrying,’ said Alderman Arnold Hatch, NILGA president.
‘Any scrapping or even reduction in this fund will have a significant impact on service delivery right across Northern Ireland.
‘It will exacerbate a two-tier economy in Northern Ireland with most of the resources to create enterprise being consolidated in just four of our councils, curtailing the ability of the other seven who need to develop new businesses and modern infrastructure to invest in developing their districts.’
Derek McCallan, chief executive of NILGA added: ‘Legislation is needed today to resource councils to help develop the practical services people need.
‘It is illogical that an investment pot such as the Rates Support Grant, which has been proven to create up to ten times the original sum, is even being put forward.
‘Arguably, this is both short sighted in terms of sustainable local government and anti-investment in terms of enterprise creation.’