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Council asks Stormont for help to prevent potential service cuts which ‘could impact on jobs’

The council says it 'will be keeping all areas of expenditure under close review and will work through ways to mitigate losses'

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has confirmed it is seeking support from central government to mitigate against potential cuts to service delivery that could impact on jobs.

As Armagh I reported on Thursday evening, pressing financial concerns were discussed at the special remote meeting of ABC Council.

Up to 200 staff could be furloughed and, as we reported, the council is losing up to £1m a month.

ABC is under funding pressures as a direct result of the pandemic, with a wide range of council facilities closed and revenue streams diminished, for what will be a considerable period.

This has resulted in a sudden and unprecedented drop in income, according to council, which is asking that the lost income caused by the pandemic is mitigated by a specific Covid-19 support package from central government, for the duration of this crisis.

A spokesperson for ABC Council said: “Initial estimates are that, if the current situation remains, the council could lose approximately £10 million over the course of the financial year.

“At present, we do not have plans to cut services, but the council will be keeping all areas of expenditure under close review and will work through ways to mitigate losses.

“The council is working with colleagues across councils to continue to make the case for support for local government to ensure vital public services are protected”.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA’s announcement last week that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), or furlough scheme, is extended to local councils will provide short-term relief, but greater financial support is required to enable council to focus on long-term regional recovery.

The spokesperson added: “Council is initially entering into a process of engagement with staff in relation to furloughing and redeployment initiatives, to mitigate against financial pressures.

“However, to be in a position to sustain service levels into the future, and emerge with a feasible long-term plan for economic recovery, greater financial assistance from central government will be required.

“Council remains committed to continuing to deliver services that are essential to the people, communities, and businesses of this borough, particular during this time of immense uncertainty.”

Council says it is continually monitoring and reviewing options in relation to staffing levels, including furloughing, however analysis is currently being finalised.

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