SDLP Workers Rights Spokesperson, Councillor Ryan Wilson said that while it is clear there is a financial crisis in all Councils, ratepayers or council staff should not bear the brunt, through rates hikes or forced redundancies.
The Antrim & Newtownabbey Councillor said: “Councils across the North are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. My SDLP colleagues in the Assembly and Executive urged the Minister for Communities to provide financial support, and while this package was limited, it was welcome. However, the reality is this financial support was inadequate and unless something changes drastically Councils will be unable to provide vital services to people across the north.”
“The SDLP is under no illusion about the scale of the challenge we face. We know something needs to change, but we do not believe that forced redundancies or unsustainable rate hikes are the right way to solve this crisis. For people across the North, councils will be on the front line of the COVID-19 recovery. Cutting staff, stripping back services and halting vital investments are not the way to support people.”
“At a recent Council meeting, the SDLP put forward a range of solutions to the challenge we currently face. We do not shy away from difficult decisions, but our priority will always be protection of our staff and value for money for ratepayers. We put forward several positive, solution focused proposals to a recent council meeting. Disappointingly, other parties did not allow these proposals to be voted on.”
“Our proposals included seeking improved loan repayment terms and payment holidays, easing cash flow issues. We also proposed reviewing Councillors allowances, because it is our view that elected representatives cannot impose things on others that we would not be prepared to do ourselves.”
“We are deeply concerned about the haste of the decision-making process in some Councils and general approach to the financial crisis, as others rush to support reducing the Council workforce by up to 15%. Pushing forward with compulsory redundancies, in the midst of a pandemic, is simply wrong and the SDLP do not support this approach.”
“This is a difficult time for people across Northern Ireland. The scale of the financial challenge facing our Councils cannot be underestimated, but the SDLP will stand resolutely against attempts to make workers and ratepayers bear the brunt of it. We will continue to engage constructively, put forward solutions and reach a compromise that works for everyone across the North.”