Councillors face stark choices as they prepare to strike the rate for the coming year. Fuel and material cost increases which are outside the control of the council are major factors that will see the organisation's costs increase.
An extensive 100+ page report uploaded to Council's website yesterday, which has since been removed revealed that without intervention ratepayers would occur an 8.56% increase.
However, if a number of cost-saving recommendations, proposed by senior officers are implemented, then councillors are expected to approve the draft net expenditure budget of £58,158,0181, a £5.2M increase on last year and strike the domestic and non-domestic rate at 3.49%.
The report revealed that the below-cost proposals will reduce rates pressure:
(i) Staffing – A challenge to CC&G management to review staffing and save £250k through staff efficiencies.
(ii) Other Savings – A challenge to CC&G management to review other costs and making savings of £300k
The following income proposals would reduce rates pressure :
(i) New Car Parking Charges – Officers identified £500k of additional car park income.
Documents reveal that parking charges could be introduced at Coleraine Waterside; Portrush’s West Strand, Sandhill Drive and Lansdowne Road, Portballintrae Beach Road and Ballycastle Harbour costing as much as 30p per hour. Ballycastle Marina car park could cost 50p per hour and Ballintoy Harbour £1 per hour.
(ii) Increase Car Parking Charges – Officers identified £200k of income by increasing car parking charges by 10p.
Documents reveal that a 10p increase could be added to all existing paid for carparks.
(iii) Beach Parking Charges – Introduce a £5.00 fee to drive onto the beaches at Benone, Downhill and Castlerock will support an increase £80k income.
(iv) Caddie Bags – Apply a charge of £1 a roll, similar to what other councils apply, will support an estimated £80k income.
(v) Events – if events are a one-off cost, these can be paid out of our Useable Reserves that will adjust the cost pressure on the ratepayer by £500k
(vi) Leisure Centre Charges – Increase Leisure Centre Charges by 6% forecast inflation will support estimate income of £100k
(vii) Harbour Fees – increase with 6% inflation that is forecast for 2022/23 will increase income by £20k
Councillors will be informed that if the above adjustments are implemented that it would reduce the rate pressure by £2.0M which would still fall short of the required £2.6M.
They will be asked to note that there remains a significant risk of an £0.6M deficit at year-end next year, which will ultimately reduce reserves.
Councillors will meet tomorrow evening from 7 pm at Cloonavin and via video conference.
When asked this morning why the extensive reports were removed from Councils website, a spokesperson said "I will check this for you and come back to you as soon as possible."