28/11/2008

Budgets Are Healthy, Says Councils

Local council officials have defended this week's news of what appears to be major 'debts' right across the Province.

It was revealed that councils in Northern Ireland owed almost £400 million altogether.

Derry City Council has debts of £21 million, for example - around £1 million more than Belfast - which is Northern Ireland's largest council.

However, Derry has assets worth £85.7 million which meant the loans represented 25% of the value of its assets and they said this was in fact, a "healthy ratio".

A Derry City Council spokesperson told the BBC this was the 'standard' way local authorities raised finances for capital expenditure.
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The council said the money owed was from Government loans borrowed at fixed interest rates for capital projects - representing good accounting.

Ballymena however has debts of more than £30 million, topping the league, while another one in Co Antrim, Newtownabbey Borough Council, has debts of £28 million.

Again though, the Borough's Mayor, Victor Robinson, said they had a "healthy balance sheet" and that it reflected the quality of the assets for residents.

"We consult with our residents every year and the feedback shows high levels of customer satisfaction with our services and facilities and the value for money aspect of these," he said.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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