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16th November 1999
Report of the Finance & General Purposes Committee Meeting held on Tuesday 16 November 1999 at 7.00 pm in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane
Present:- In the Chair:- Councillor C McHugh Other Members:- Councillors Mrs A Bell, I Barr, D A Bresland, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, T McBride, J McNulty, I Murtagh, J OíKane, E Turner MBE Total = 13 Apology:- Councillor E McMenamin In Attendance:- Clerk and Chief Executive, Acting Head of Finance, Committee Clerk
SCHEDULE OF ACCOUNTS
The Schedule of Accounts for the month of November 1999 was presented to the meeting, a copy of which was previously circulated. The Chief Executive and Acting Head of Finance (AHF) responded to queries by Members. Discussion ensued with particular reference to the following:-
Limavady Printing Co. Ltd - £220.47
Following a query by Councillor Barr, the AHF advised that this account related to the purchase of two step ladders and stationery for the Council Offices.
Newtownstewart & District Community Association - £200.00
Newtownstewart & District Community Development Association - £200.00
In response to a query by the Chairman, the AHF advised that these were two separate groups.
Mournederg Partnership - £3000.00
In response to a query by Councillor Barr, the AHF advised that it had been agreed at the Cultural and Arts Committee meeting on 18 October 1999 to release this funding. This was noted.
Strabane Lifford Development Commission - £14,200.00
TEDI - £12,700.00
Councillor Barr queried if the audited accounts had been checked. The Chief Executive advised that these accounts would be held until the accounts were received.
Half Yearly Budget Statement
The AHF presented the half yearly budget statement for 1999/2000, copy of which was previously circulated. Councillor Murtagh remarked that the statement was meaningful and easy to understand. He remarked on the net underspend on expenditure of approx. £100,000 but pointed out that this figure tended to fluctuate. Councillor McBride concurred with these remarks and commended the respective Heads of Department for keeping within budget. Councillor Murtagh further commented that refuse collection and disposal was £20,000 over budget and was an area of increasing cost. The Chairman enquired if the Chief Executive or AHF wished to draw any particular item to the attention of Members. The Chief Executive commented that this information was extremely beneficial for both Members and also for Officers and would be closely monitored.
The budget statement was adopted, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor Murtagh.
Accounts Ė Sperrin Heritage Centre
The AHF advised Members that the Sperrin Heritage Centre had closed approx. two weeks previously and the trading accounts would be presented to the Finance meeting in December. This was agreed.
The Chief Executive reminded Members that this letter had been deferred pending clarification on a number of issues. He advised that Section 115 of the Local Government Act (NI) 1972 applied and the legal opinion previously obtained by Council posed the question "Would the erection of memorials benefit any inhabitants of the area?" It was considered that the erection of this memorial would not and Council should be mindful of the legal opinion. The response from other Councils was as follows:-
Dungannon - Recommended £1,000 but this has not been confirmed.
Limavady - No contribution.
Fermanagh Ė Marked "read".
Cookstown - Awaiting outcome of decision by other Councils.
Discussion ensued during which a number of Members remarked that it would be remiss of the Council not to recognise the invaluable work carried out by the NI Fire Brigade. It was also felt that any correspondence should highlight that the Council was very appreciative and supportive of its work. It was also felt that guidelines as to the level of contribution on a population basis were required to ensure equity.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by Councillor McBride, a further deferral of the request for a financial contribution. It was further agreed that the Chief Executive clarify the position with the Local Government Auditor and report back.
Strabane Befriending & Counselling Association
The Chief Executive informed Members that the request from the above Association for use of a room for meetings had been withdrawn. This was noted. Councillor Barr declared an interest as the Co-Ordinator, who had signed the letter, was a relative.
The Terracotta Ramblers
Members considered request to sponsor Mr Jack McLoughlin, Strabane, who was participating in the Thailand Charity Challenge in November 1999. It was agreed that a similar contribution to the last two years i.e. £100 be given.
Strabane Befriending & Counselling Association
Members considered request for funding received from the above Association towards the provision of support to the whole district of Strabane.
Councillor McBride commended the group in its efforts to date and having secured premises and proposed that the Council contribute the sum of £300, the maximum permitted under the Councilís policy. This was seconded by Councillor Murtagh and agreed.
Donemana Community and Police Liaison Committee
Members considered request for financial assistance received from the above Committee. Discussion ensued during which the Chairman expressed surprise at the letter having been placed before the Finance Committee. He also expressed surprise at a Constable having signed the letter. He referred to the current debate as to whether or not Councils may be involved in Liaison Committees etc. He felt that the letter should have been placed before the Council together with relevant background information to enable Members to make an informed decision.
Whilst recognising the problem of crime in the rural area and welcoming any initiative which tackled this problem, Councillor McBride felt that this was the first time such a request had come before Council. In this respect he urged the Council to be cautious as it may be inundated with similar type requests from other groups. He felt it may be more appropriate for the group to seek funding through the NI Police Authority.
Councillor Donnell remarked that this was a newly established Committee and was community based and felt it should be considered for funding in the same way as other groups.
Councillor Bresland declared an interest in the group.
Councillor Turner suggested that the letter be referred to the Community Relations Department for consideration under its budgets and that a report be brought back to Council.
The Chief Executive undertook to refer this letter to the Councilís Community Services/Community Relations Department for consideration and to obtain background information prior to the Council reaching a decision. This was agreed.
Councillor Cartwright Ė Washington Visit
Members considered letter dated 22 October 1999 received from the Development Officer of the North West Region Cross Border Group regarding the above visit during which Councillor Cartwright became unwell and was hospitalised. Limavady Borough Council was not covered by insurance. The NWRCBG was requesting constituent Councils to indemnify Councillor Cartwright against any liability should the action taken in his name fail. The support of Strabane District Council was, therefore, being sought.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor Turner stated that Limavady Borough Council had not provided insurance cover. He stated that the other constituent Councils had provided adequate insurance cover for their Councillors and he could not support this request. He advised that he had made his views known to the Chief Executive of Limavady Council.
Councillor Barr commented that Strabane District Councilís Chief Executive, Dr Eakin, had participated in this trip and had indeed stayed an extra few days to support Councillor Cartwright. Strabane District Council had incurred additional expenditure, albeit minor costs, in respect of this. He felt that clarification was needed as to whether Strabane District Councilís insurance would cover this and also estimated costings to the Council would be required prior to any decision being reached. He further stated that he would not be in favour of the Council paying substantial costs.
The Chief Executive advised that the Councilís insurance would not cover this. He urged Members to bear in mind that any expenditure would result in the Councilís resources being expended on a programme which was organised by the NWRCBG which was taking action against a third party. He undertook to confirm the insurance aspects and estimated costs of any action and report back. Councillor Turner further requested that the Chief Executive clarify the situation with the Local Government Auditor and also the likelihood of a surcharge on Councillors.
It was agreed that the Chief Executive investigate the matter further, as outlined above, and report back to Council.
Western Area Early Years Committee
Members considered request for financial assistance of £500 to help get the Strabane District Early Years Forum established. Councillor Mrs Bell declared an interest as she was a member of the Early Years Committee. Councillor Hussey remarked that the Western Area Early Years Committee appeared to be writing on behalf of the local Forum and queried its association with the Western Health & Social Services Board.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, that Mr Elliott and a representative of the local group be invited to discuss the remit of this new Forum. It was further agreed that a copy of the Forumís constitution be obtained prior to the presentation.
Santa Appeal in aid of Homeless Children
Members considered request for funding of £25.00 for the above appeal. It was noted that St Judeís Trust for Homeless Children was based in Dublin.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by Councillor McBride, that the Chief Executive clarify whether there were any local connections or benefits for the Strabane District Council area and report back.
Recognition of Service to Fire Brigade
Members considered request received from Firefighter Richard Mortimore to mark the retirement of sub/officer Jackie McCreanor from Strabane Fire Brigade after 41 years of service to the local community and surrounding district.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor Turner, that the Council recognise Mr McCreanor in a similar way as his predecessor, Len Steenson.
Mr Richard Mulligan Ė Appointment to News Letter
Councillor Kerrigan advised Members that Mr Richard Mulligan, reporter for the Strabane Weekly News and Tyrone Constitution, who was present at the meeting tonight, was taking up a position with the News Letter in the Farming Life and Sports Section. He remarked that Mr Mulligan had worked in the Omagh office for the past 12 years, was sports editor for the past 9 years and provided cover for Mr Killen at Council meetings in Strabane over a period of 10 years. He paid tribute to Mr Mulligan for his high standard of work and wished him every success in the future.
Councillor Turner concurred with these remarks and suggested that the Chairman of the Council present Mr Mulligan with a Council tie or similar gift. This was unanimously agreed.
The Chairman complimented Mr Mulligan on the high standard of his work and in particular his wide coverage of sport which was recognised throughout the area. All Members present unanimously concurred with these sentiments.
Strabane and District Road Safety Committee
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor OíKane, seconded by Councillor McBride, that the above Committee be granted use of the Council Offices for its monthly meetings. It was further agreed that the Committee be requested to arrange its meetings on the same night as Council meetings so as to reduce costs.
"Into the West Ltd" Ė Economic Development Conference
Members considered invitation to the above conference to be held on 29 November 1999 in the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh at a cost of £45 per delegate. A number of Councillors indicated that they had received personal invitations.
It was agreed that any Councillor wishing to attend should submit their name accordingly. It was further agreed that the Chief Executive and the Economic Development Officer also attend. Councillor OíKane indicated that he would be attending. This was noted.
A New Agenda for Social Housing: Who will be the New Providers?
Members considered details of the above seminar to be held on 3 December 1999 in the Hilton International Hotel, Belfast at a cost of £225 per delegate.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, that a maximum of two Councillors attend the seminar. Councillors Turner and Kerrigan indicated that they would be interested in attending. This was agreed.
Establishing Learning Centres Network through New Opportunities Funding
Members considered invitations to the above seminar to be held on 19 November 1999 at the Strabane Enterprise Agency. It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor OíKane, that any Councillor wishing to attend should do so.
Killen District Development Limited Ė Annual Christmas Party
Members considered invitation to the above party to be held at 7.30 pm on 4 December 1999 in Killen Community Hall. It was agreed that any Member wishing to attend should do so.
NIJC 1999/2000 Regional Pay Briefing
Members considered details of the above briefing to be held in Carrickfergus on 23 November 1999 to discuss employment policy matters.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor Mrs Bell, that Councillor Turner and the Human Resources Officer attend.
Expressions of Appreciation
The Chief Executive informed Members that a letter of appreciation had been received from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association for the Councilís contribution of £100 and from Ballycolman Nursery School for the Councilís contribution of £50. This was noted.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Turner, seconded by Councillor Murtagh, that the meeting go "Into Committee".
Christmas Holiday Arrangements
The Chief Executive advised Members that the majority of staff were in agreement that the Council Offices close from 24 December 1999 to 4 January 2000. This was agreed.
Riversdale Leisure Centre Ė Proposed Maintenance Arrangements
The Chief Executive reminded Members of the Councilís request to allow the Fitness Rooms in the Leisure Centre to remain open during the maintenance period i.e. 13 December 1999 to 2 January 2000. He explained that the Chief Recreation Officer had advised that Fitness Room users would be able to use these until 23 December on the basis that toilet facilities will be available but not the changing rooms and showers.
It was agreed that the Fitness Rooms be closed from 13 December to 2 January given the lack of access to the changing rooms and showers.
Councillor Turner reiterated his previous comments in that maintenance work at the Leisure Centre should be programmed so as not to interfere with school holiday periods and, therefore, facilitate the large numbers of families who could avail of the facilities at these times. The Chief Executive gave an undertaking that these comments would be borne in mind in the future.
The meeting concluded at 8.50 pm.