Ratepayers to pick up million pound bill

Cllr Anthony McGonnell  TT2110-145JS
Cllr Anthony McGonnell TT2110-145JS

Dungannon Council ratepayers will be left to foot a multi- million pound bill for the creation of the new Mid-Ulster super council, veteran politicians have claimed.

SDLP Councillor Anthony McGonnell warned that ratepayers will be left with ‘a mountain of debt’ racked up by the cost of running transition committees and overseeing the changes necessary to merge Dungannon Council with Cookstown and Magherafelt Councils.

The bill will likely include the cost of running a shadow council and transition committees, local elections, and overseeing employment changes, branding, advertising and salaries.

The cost of paying the expenses of the shadow council members is estimated as costing more than £500,000.

“Implementing the changes that are necessary will open up a minefield of expenses”, said the Clogher Valley councillor.

“The decision to streamline local government was made at the top political level, and I believe that Stormont should foot the bill, rather than the new super councils.

“After all, it is the government that is forcing this on local councils and it is unfair that we should be paying the price. The great irony is that the council structures were changed as a means to save money for the ratepayer, rather than hike up their bills.

“The councils will be getting a range of new powers, devolved from the Assembly, and this will also add to the ratepayer’s bill. Meanwhile, the assembly members will continue to draw the same salary for less work.”

UUP peer, and former Councillor, Ken Maginnis branded the new super council ‘a bureaucratic bonanza’, and said he ‘totally disapproved’ of the changes.

“The new super council is not what was envisaged in the first place to save money. Local government has been forced into an inappropriate bureaucratic reconstruction that will lead to a duplication of services and very little cost-saving.”