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Minister activates emergency financial assistance to local councils due to the Covid-19

Reacting to news that Minister for Communities had activated emergency financial assistance to local councils due to the Covid-19 crisis, Cllr Frances Burton, President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) said: “This is a welcome first step and heralds some vital financial assistance overseen by Minister Hargey with the approval from the Department of Finance.”

“Local government here has been investing heavily across many key services to ensure front line delivery on waste, burials and community co-ordination are provided as far as possible mindful of the public’s health, the most vulnerable, ever changing legislation and the safety of our employees.”

“NILGA and our Chief Executives wrote last week to all Ministers working collaboratively with our councils at this crucial time, emphasising evidence that councils face an £11 million per month deficit across the sector with income stopped, and huge additional expenditures rising, to keep essential services going amidst growing staff shortages. We urge that, in keeping with colleagues in Scotland and Wales, departments in Stormont come together with us and consider the totality of the deficits over a 16-week initial phase, deficits which if met through practical partnership, will ensure councils’ sustainability.”

“The range of incredible local responses to this crisis has been outstanding and the anchor role and dynamic work our councils provide as hubs for such local dedication and delivery, must be invested in. Councils more and more are collaborating with the local community, businesses, government agencies and charities, for everything from food distribution to our buildings being redeployed for medical equipment manufacturing.”

“We would urge that this proactive step by Minister Hargey at Communities and recent positive engagement with Minister Poots at DAERA, is followed through across government from national to regional to local.”