Enright claims victory in fight over rates rise

Enright claims victory in fight over rates rise

18 January 2012

A DOWNPATRICK councillor claims he has been vindicated in a year-long battle to force Down Council to stop holding a multi million pound cash reserve.

Councillor Cadogan Enright has spent the past 12 months trying to persuade other councillors and council officials that the reserves should be used to offset this year’s rates increase.

External auditors have now confirmed Mr. Enright is correct in his argument and as a result the council is to begin spending the cash reserve, which currently stands at over £7.5m.

Down Council currently holds the third highest capital reserves of Northern Ireland’s 26 councils, behind Derry and Belfast. Newry and Mourne holds just £600,000, Ards and Castlereagh each hold £1.3m and Armagh holds just £100,000.

Mr. Enright argued that by retaining such a high reserve the future merger with Newry and Mourne would hand a huge windfall to the new council which he believes should be spent on improving services in the current Down District.

The Green Party councillor, a chartered accountant, was the only councillor to vote against the adoption of the council accounts last year because the council’s reserves were so big.

“Following my defeat by a margin of 22 to one last March I referred the matter to the external auditor, the audit committee and managed with the help of two other councillors to have the internal auditor spend time investigating this matter,” he said.

“Having attended audit and strategic resource committee meetings over the last 18 months I am now certain that all technical questions about this matter have now been resolved.

“The bigger parties are now faced with estimates of 20-30 per cent of rates increases over the next four years and have been forced to come around to my point of view to be able to achieve an acceptable figure.

“We therefore have at least £4m of reserves available to use before the merger with Newry and Mourne,” he added.

The largest portion of the reserves, £3.7m, was earmarked for decommissioning Drumanakelly landfill site once it has been closed down. However, councillor Enright said this was far too large a sum.

“I believe we are only legally and environmentally required to provide for decommissioning for a maximum of 30 years after its closure, not the 60 proposed by management,” he explained.

“We are also allowed to recognise the future value of income from renewable energy and, in particular electricity generated from methane at the dump.

“Newry and Mourne have done this and as a result only have a fraction of our reserves for the same purpose.”

The councillor thanked councillors John Doris and Eamon Mac Con Midhe for their support on the matter.