Magherafelt council debt-free Cookstown lowest in NI

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MAGHERAFELT is the only Council in Northern Ireland to be debt free with Cookstown rating well with the second lowest level of debt.

In figures released to the NI Assembly, it was revealed that since 2008, Magherafelt has kept within budget and has not had to borrow any funds from central government.

Cookstown also has not borrowed any funds however it remains with a almost £1.5m debt.

With councils across Northern Ireland in debt to the tune of more than £400m, this is good news for the Mid Ulster area.

However with proposals to amalgamate councils in the reorganisation of local government, both Cookstown and Magherafelt may see their debt levels soar.

Areas which have been prudent may have to share the debt of merging councils.

There are proposals that Cookstown and Magherafelt will merge with Dungannon District Council which has debts of almost £3.5m. This follows borrowing a loan of almost £2.3m in 2008/09

Acting Chief Executive of Cookstown District Council Mr Adrian McCreesh told the Mid Ulster Mail: “Cookstown District Council has a very low level of borrowing. This is due to prudent financial management and strategic planning in order to maximise funding.

“We have an effective management capital plan supported by the elected members and delivered economically and efficiently by the management and staff.”

Sinn Fein Chairperson of Magherafelt District Council Ian Milne commended the partnership approach that is taken in Council by Councillors and officers working closely together to deliver quality services whilst achieving value for money.

He said ‘Both Councillors and management closely examine all aspects of Council expenditure and continually review the cost effectiveness of service delivery.

“Despite being a small Council, we have succeeded in making sure that the Council area has excellent facilities and services beyond what would be expected of a Council of this size and has been done without the Council having any debt. This has been achieved by making careful yet strategic management decisions.”

According to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) it approved the loans provided by the National Loads Fund which is the government’s main borrowing and lending account.

A departmental spokeswoman said that when a council applies to borrow money ‘DFP will calculate the total amount that can be borrowed by the council and satisfy itself that the loan requested is within the council’s borrowing capacity’.

“Upon satisfaction of these details the loan will normally be granted,” she said.