Local Councils and debt

The BBC report some of the detail from a written answer from the Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, on the scale of Local Council debt [scroll down] – total debt £376,624,626. And £30,309,077 of that total is owed by Ballymena Borough Council, Derry City Council owes £21,061,374, Coleraine £27,839,209, Belfast £20,875,428, Armagh £21,633,264, Lisburn £21,062,197, Newry and Mourne £21,779,190, Newtonabbey £28,362,873, North Down £24,445,650, and Antrim £23,097,402. But, importantly, £11,513,780 of Ballymena’s borrowing is “repayable on demand or within 12 months”. [Adds “from council’s 2007/2008 uncertified accounts”].
Adds Full details More Formatting glitch has sent the table to the bottom of the available space. Please scroll down.

Local Councils

Mr Weir asked the Minister of the Environment to detail the level of debt of each local council.

(AQW 2264/09)

The Minister of the Environment: The level of debt of each district council, which has been extracted from council’s 2007/2008 uncertified accounts, is detailed below.














































































































































































District Council

2007 / 2008

Borrowing repayable on demand or within 12 months


£

2007 / 2008

Borrowing repayable within a period in excess of 12 months


£

2007 / 2008

Total debt


£

Antrim

1,971,355

21,126,047

23,097,402

Ards

638,312

14,455,187

15,093,499

Armagh

879,724

20,753,540

21,633,264

Ballymena

11,513,780

18,795,297

30,309,077

Ballymoney

404,051

9,160,350

9,564,401

Banbridge

762,940

12,365,941

13,128,881

Belfast

9,713

20,865,715

20,875,428

Carrickfergus

393,505

13,373,431

13,766,936

Castlereagh

237,997

17,737,682

17,975,679

Coleraine

1,899,632

25,939,577

27,839,209

Cookstown

51,493

1,668,056

1,719,549

Craigavon

1,294,207

6,925,910

8,220,117

Derry

1,095,354

19,966,020

21,061,374

Down

982,175

14,415,109

15,397,284

Dungannon and South Tyrone

143,717

1,887,236

2,030,953

Fermanagh

229,432

2,294,199

2,523,631

Larne

339,189

5,887,735

6,226,924

Limavady

177,134

8,806,286

8,983,420

Lisburn

907,227

20,154,970

21,062,197

Magherafelt

0

0

0

Moyle

295,978

8,309,192

8,605,170

Newry and Mourne

2,059,129

19,720,061

21,779,190

Newtownabbey

1,192,793

27,170,080

28,362,873

North Down

1,085,641

23,360,009

24,445,650

Omagh

514,507

9,886,778

10,401,285

Strabane

53,383

2,467,850

2,521,233

Total

29,132,368

347,492,258

376,624,626

, , , ,

  • The Raven

    Pete, I don’t want to make any excuses here for anyone, but this has to be taken into *some* context.

    Before saying anything more, I will assume that most people here will know that of the rates you pay each year only a lesser portion will go to the Councils.

    This year, a lot of them will be getting hit hard. There will be loss in revenue according to the number of homes lying empty, and in some cases, revenue losses through Building Control downturn, or big losses through factory or business closures.

    The burden on Councils is much-increased since their inception in their current form in the Seventies.

    For example, many Councils will provide advice services, contracted out through CAB or independent advice sector. Without local council contributions – and in some cases, these are massive – these won’t happen.

    Many will support programmes for economic development. Again, while these are at cost to the ratepayer, they offer local councils an opportunity to “lever in” a £-for-£ contribution from Europe.

    Some will provide funding services, which again lever in many thousands of external monies. But there’s a cost attached to all of these. And where, say, a Council decides to make a contribution to a community hall of £50k, they won’t see any of the matching funding levered in back to their own coffers.

    Many of you will also realise that there is now a “toll” on waste going to landfill. I think it’s about £60 per tonne over and above disposal allowances from Europe. That cost, people, is completely and utterly down to you. Councils have, on the whole, given you the means by which this cost can be substantially decreased. Use it, or pay up.

    Well done to Magherafelt for having no debt. There will be a reason why they have no debt, and that is probably, more than likely, that they expend very little beyond their core duties. When I write that, I am not saying anything for or against how they provide, or don’t provide services that other Councils may.

    Where things go badly wrong, and where I have to say in my experience, they need to be more careful, is the capital expenditure programmes. The “civic centre” or “arts centre” projects for example. But without these projects, many of our rural towns would have no “centre” for activity.

    There are many other reasons for some of this debt, but space is against me. I post this in the hope that I beat the usual nay-sayers, who may think twice about posting the usual “blah-blah-close them all-blah-blah” uninformed shite that we have to trawl through every time this comes up. Council offices are NOT, by and large, gilded palaces. Mayoral expenses are NOT the reason why Councils have incurred this debt.

    These debts – and indeed the cost of your LOCAL rate – are likely to increase by 2012 when RPA kicks in, and this will reflect the even wider range of activity that local councils undertake when they amalgamate.

    I’d love to know, though, how Coleraine has managed to run up that debt. Waterworld? The Dunluce Centre? And yet no substantial provision for any of the rural villages in the area? Hm. Perhaps we should have thought twice about those spends….

  • Pete Baker

    Raven

    That’s a perfectly valid point to make.

    But what’s striking from the figures is the massive variation involved between councils.

    From £0 debt to £30.3million.

    And I do find Ballymena’s £11.5million “repayable on demand or within 12 months” particularly worrying.

  • TOT

    The repayable on demand or within 12 mths just means its on overdraft rather than a term facility and most likely done this way as they will get cheaper borrowings. Key question is have they borrowed short term because its a short term need – if its a long term need they are silly borrowing short term as they are at the beck and call of the funding market.

    Perhaps some bright spark could correlate the variance in total debt level versus population/political party control/commercial base.

  • The Raven

    Ok, I have already begun…. Gimme an hour….

  • Those with the better percentage breakout of the Short Term Debt to Total are as follows (ie with < 3%) ..... COUNCIL_NAME STDebt% G/O Magherafelt NA% G Belfast 0% 50/50 Castlereagh 1% O Limavady 2% G Strabane 2% G Carrickfergus 3% O Cookstown 3% G Moyle 3% G while those with the worse..... Antrim 9% O Fermanagh 9% G Newry and Mourne 9% G Craigavon 16% O Ballymena 38% O Regarding ST Debt: financing error 101 is funding long term liabilities with short term debt. This is what brought down / is bringing down so many financial insititutions recently eg. Northern Rock. Will Ballymeanie go the same way ?

  • The Raven

    Actually, and on reflection, I’m not going to be able to do the commercial base. Nor am I that willing to do the “party political” thing, either. I don’t really see the relevance…and it’ll only start a lotta un-necessary shite. So here’s the council, the debt and the population.

    It will stand to reason that the more rural and smaller councils may have a much lesser commercial base to run with. Sorry my formatting is not up to scratch – debt first, population second.

    Antrim
    23,097,402
    48,366

    Ards
    15,093,499
    73,244

    Armagh
    21,633,264
    54,263

    B’mena
    30,309,077
    58,610

    B’money
    9,564,401
    26,849

    B’bridge
    13,128,881
    41,392

    Belfast
    20,875,428
    277,391

    Carrick
    13,766,936
    37,659

    C’reagh
    17,975,679
    66,488

    C’raine
    27,839,209
    56,315

    C’kstown
    1,719,549
    32,581

    Craigavon
    8,220,117
    80,671

    Derry
    21,061,374
    105,066

    Down
    15,397,284
    63,828

    D’gannon
    2,030,953
    47,735

    Fermanagh
    2,523,631
    57,527

    Larne
    6,226,924
    38,832

    Limavady
    8,983,420
    32,422

    Lisburn
    21,062,197
    108,649

    Magherafelt
    0
    39,789

    Moyle
    8,605,170
    15,933

    Newry
    21,779,190
    87,058

    N’abbey
    28,362,873
    79,995

    N. Down
    24,445,650
    76,323

    Omagh
    10,401,285
    47,952

    Strabane
    2,521,233
    38,248

  • Peter, have you tried inserting Scribd documents in Slugger in a manner similar to your use of YouTube?

  • cynic

    Why should our Councillors worry?

    When the new super-councils come in, all this will become someone else’s problem for many of the numpties who run the 3 B’s here. They will write it off as ‘restructuring costs’ and part fund it by the sale of some of those luxurious council offices. Problem solved.

  • The Raven

    Cynic wrote: exactly what I hoped we’d avoid.

  • mook

    Debt per head, as per Raven’s figures. Belfast looks not so bad now, Moyle much worserer…

    £0 – Magherafelt
    £43 – D’gannon
    £44 – F’managh
    £53 – C’kstown
    £66 – Strabane
    £75 – Belfast
    £102 – Craigavon
    £160 – Larne
    £194 – Lisburn
    £200 – Derry
    £206 – Ards
    £217 – Omagh
    £241 – Down
    £250 – Newry
    £270 – C’reagh
    £277 – Limavady
    £317 – B’bridge
    £320 – N. Down
    £355 – N’abbey
    £356 – B’money
    £366 – Carrick
    £399 – Armagh
    £478 – Antrim
    £494 – C’raine
    £517 – B’mena
    £540 – Moyle

  • frustrated democrat

    I think you may find that arrangements for the Ballymena £11 million have already been put in place.

    It is dangerous to look at a snapshot in terms of accounts, often they do not refect the longer term position, as many in the private sector have found to their cost.

    So I doubt Ballymena will be following Gordon Brown’s lead, however fortunately Larne and Carrick have lower numbers in terms of total debt and debt/head so they can help pay the bill.

    Having said that the total of £30 million is far too high and shows a council that has been living well beyond it means, with a £20 million white elephant (sorry Museum and Arts centre) a £10 million ECOS centre, and a multi million sports ground plus several community centres.

    So this DUP led council is more Labour than Tory.

  • paul kielty

    Nice breakdown, mook on debt per head. Sorry raven but I can’t help myself! There seems to be a bit of an elephant in the room thing going on here! This will totally rip to shreds a certain mythology and be replaced by a new ‘general perception’…sinn feins thrift and fiscal prudence!!!

  • The Raven

    Democrat, Paul…

    Go down that road if you wish, but each area will have differing reasons for differing levels of debt.

    Paul, do you think SF running Moyle would make an iota of difference to a Council which – if I recall correctly – is the second largest in geographical size, but has the lowest rates base, given the level of services they must provide? Or indeed that their community WISHES them to provide?

    Do you think for example, that a SF-led Council in Ards would take away from the fact that it will cost more to undertake rubbish disposal from 100 houses there, than it will on the Upper Newtownards Road? Or indeed that with so many small villages, all of whom wish to have the same services, that there will be less cost incurred by a SF-led council?

    I alluded to the capital project problem in my first post – and that Councils should stay away from it. However, this is only one aspect of service provision, and people need to be careful reading too much into it.

  • Mannanan

    It’s alright looking back and playing the blame game – what about looking forward to the ‘Super Council’ era? Moyle, Ballymena, Coleraine and Ballymoney all figure in the Giant North Coast Conglomerate – with all those record amounts of per capita debt do you think that individual rate payers should be applying for a financial bail-out from the Alistair and Gordon gravy train. This might be a good move at present, before the gravy runs out and the wheels drop off.

  • Observer

    Moyle, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Limavady, actually.

    Poor wee Limavady left to bail out the other three.

    *chortle*

  • Barnshee

    Self-agrandissment by politicanss, empire building by bureaucrats a deadly mixture. Add salarly levels way beyond that paid by the private sector, the creation of “Directors” of this that and the other where the taxpayer picks up the bill for stupid non commercial decisions and here we are . Debt to the oxters-guess who is going to pay?

  • paul kielty

    Raven,

    Moyle is nowhere near being the second biggest geographical council area, although it does have the lowest rates base.
    If your point comparing the practical difficulties in refuse collection between the newtownards road and Ards is relevant, which of course it is; could you please explain to me why councils west of the bann, in large rural areas, generally with nationalist majorities(usually sinn fein dominated) seem to be more efficient with ratepayers money?
    What is it about large capital projects that councillors east of the bann, generally, find irresistable?

  • bad writer

    “The Raven” has a point you really have to “go local”.

    “Paul” if you were to go to some of these Council areas and given that you are the one who has expressed an interest in the so-called Sinn Fein “dominated” ones, and ask residents about the services they get i dont think you would get too good an answer.

    Dungannon and South tyrone. they dont even have a website so lord knows what services are atcually provided there.

    Omagh. You feel that ten million of debt is acceptable? And this is a council that has been THROWN money for capital projects. But it still loses hundreds of thousands each year on an arts centre and sports forum.

    Magherafelt prides itself on its lack of debt. But it was lucky in attracting a lot of funding from external sources for the VERY FEW facilities that it has. Before you kick off about what i am about to write, i have to say i am a believer in fair wages. And they do not pay a fair wage especially to lower grade staff. I believe they still pay scale 1 wages to admin staff. is just over minimum wage a year fair for a thrity seven hour week?

    Strabane. Again virtually given millions under the peace and interreg and other programmes for capital expenditure. It is good to see they kept a tight rein on the debt. But they had nothing to pay out in the first place.

    Take limavady for example i believe they have agreed a four million pound expenditure for a new civic and community centre for the borough. Sinn Fein dominated. Might that bump up their figures? And yet the town is pushing and pushing for this centre to happen. Wheres the efficiency there? Here for example your argument falls down because it is only within the laqst couple of elections that it has been sinn fein dominated.

    You are both right of course there has been huge expenditure east of the bann on capital projects. Might i suggest why? Its very simple in many cases.

    The coast.

    (Please excuse my poor typing.)