15 January 2020 - by By Paul Welsh
The two main political parties, Sinn Féin and the SDLP, along with the Alliance party, and Senior Council management are refusing to explain why the Council’s wage and salaries bill has increased by a massive 30.5% in the first five years of the ‘new’ Council - a rise of almost £8.5 million.
Only UUP group party leader Cllr David Taylor and Independent councillor Jarlath Tinnelly responded from those contacted.
The amalgamation of the 26 legacy Councils to 11 ‘super-Councils’ under the Review of Public Administration (RPA) was, we were led to believe, meant to save ratepayers money, but five years after the Newry and Mourne and Down District councils came together to form Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, it is millions of pounds in debt, faces rising costs and a wage bill that has risen by almost £8.5million.
For the first year of the Council (2015/16), the salaries and wages bill was £27,729,499 with 954 full and part-time employees. By the end of the 2018/19 financial year, it had risen to £31,170,552 with 1,026 full and part-time employees - an increase of £3,441,053 or 12.4%.
However, for this year, 2019/20, the Council has estimated that the wage bill will top £36million at £36,197,008. That’s an increase of £8,467,509 or 30.5% in salaries and wages from 2015/16. The total number of employees at present is 1,059.
For the current 2019/20 financial year alone, based on the Council’s estimated figure, the salaries and wage rise will be £5,026,456 or 16.12%.
All of the monetary and employee numbers figures were provided by the Council or we were directed to the Statements of Accounts by the Council, following Freedom of Information submissions from the Newry Reporter.
Last June we wrote how the Council debt at 31/3/2018 had risen by £6,104,506 or 10.5% from £58,051,480 (Dec 31, 2016) to £64,155,986 and interest paid over the same period was £6,529,094.
Consultants spending has risen by a staggering 108.2% from £964,626 (2015/16) to £2,008,808 (2018/19) with a total spend to year end 2018/19 of £4,498,821. Far from saving ratepayers money with the merging and streamlining of services to cut out duplicity, the amalgamation of the two Councils appears to be costing ratepayers more with wages and salaries, debt and costs increasing year-on-year.
Rates continue to rise and nothing is done by councillors/ Council to help businesses who are under pressure from rates costs and not rents.
Main party and management silence
We contacted the main political parties and asked if they could explain to ratepayers and account for an increased spend of £8,467,589 or 30.5% on salaries and wages in five years?
We asked them how long could the Council sustain such increases in wages and salaries, costs and debt year-after-year and at what point did they say stop?
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