Council staff jobs secure, authority says

ABC Council rates to rise by 2.48%
Adam Morton

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Adam Morton

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Local Democracy Reporter

ARMAGH City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has confirmed it has no plans to make staff, temporary or permanent, redundant as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reassurance was issued following news of controversial plans by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to terminate the contracts of some staff in response to COVID-19 related financial pressures.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a spokesperson for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council confirmed it has no plans to take the same course of action.

“No, the council currently does not have plans to terminate the contracts of casual workers or employees as a result of issues relating to COVID-19,” said the Council spokesperson.

Speaking about their proposed redundancies, a spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council explained its position.

“The Council needs urgent clarity about the extent to which we can make use of the Government’s Job Retention / Furlough scheme and we look forward to hearing from the Minister over the coming days with regards to this.

“In line with other Councils, we have already requested that Employment Agencies furlough staff who are not essential to the operations of the Council at this point in time.

“We are already engaging with Departmental Officials to provide them with more information about the additional costs we have incurred in relation to the pandemic, our significant loss of income and cash flow difficulties.”

The spokesperson continued: “Given the predicted severe economic downturn, we are forecasting an unprecedented shortfall in the amount of rates which will be generated for the Council in the current financial year and beyond. This will impact on our ability to remain solvent and continue to deliver Council services.

“The Council is mindful of its legal responsibility to avoid insolvency and maintain an adequate level of reserves. The Local Government Finance Act (NI) 2011 states that ‘A Council shall make arrangements for the proper administration of its financial affairs’.

“We will temporarily defer the Council’s proposal to release 46 short service staff. However, until clarity is received, the Council will continue to plan for the urgent action it may need to take in order to ensure that we can continue to provide essential services.

“The Council will have no choice but to consider the position again in two weeks’ time should the matter not be resolved.

“Within this context, our urgent priority is to address our ongoing financial viability and the need to avoid insolvency, therefore the potential to reduce our current staffing levels remains under review.”

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