This evening at a special meeting Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council approved its annual Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31st March 2021.
Whilst a number of Councillors welcomed the statement of accounts, Councillor McShane said his colleagues "were unable to grasp the reality of the situation they were in".
For ratepayers, the most notable figures are:
- Since last year, loans carried forward by the Council in its accounts have reduced by £5.4 million. This compares favourably to the other 10 Councils whose loans in the previous year have increased by an average of approximately £5.2m.
- The general fund balance has increased by £761,000 giving a carrying total of £4.531m, which is above recommended levels.
- Other useable reserves have increased by £6.577m to a total of £12.094m. The major contribution to this increase was the creation of a COVID Recovery Reserve. This aims to mitigate any future losses which arise because of the ongoing pandemic from impacting upon the rate payer. The Council drew down the second lowest level of central government funding from the Department of Communities.
Independent Councillor Padraig McShane spoke during the meeting saying: "I am unsure if any other Council would backslap and congratulate themselves to the degree Causeway Coast and Glens did at the last Audit Committee and here tonight during the presentation of year-end accounts.
"Perhaps no one was aware of the four key priority 1 findings in the Audit report?
"There should be no priority 1 findings yet. We are so used to numerous failings and repeat findings of this nature in our Audit that it has become meaningless to members. It's embarrassing!
"What’s more embarrassing is the debt analysis. It is clear that this Council was saved by a global pandemic.
"The Council was gifted multi-millions to pay furloughed staff among other grants.
They had just struck the rates when the worst accesses of the pandemic set in and the greatest stroke of luck saved those who had wreaked havoc on the accounts of Causeway Coast and Glens.
"Multi-millions poured into the coffers of Causeway Coast and Glens while the ratepayers had already been charged in the rate-setting process for staff costs. The question is automatically, why is there not more multi-millions in the reserves now
"I have said before and I will say again, I am asked to accept these accounts at face value. But I was misled in the past. We all were. I will not be accepting the reassurances contained within these reports."