Agenda item


            The Committee was reminded that, at the Council meeting on 1st April, the following motion on Funding for the Citywide Tribunal Service had been proposed by Councillor Ferguson and seconded by Councillor Matt Collins:


“This Council notes with alarm that the Belfast Citywide Tribunal Service once again faces closure due to a lack of funding.


The Council is deeply concerned with the lack of core funding offered to this service over the past year and notes that the recent Department for Communities budget did not include a necessary funding package to retain this vital service.


The Council, therefore, calls on the Minister for Communities to immediately release core funding for the Citywide Tribunal Service of £256,769 per annum, in order to meet the growing need and pressure which the service faces and calls for an urgent meeting with the Minister, with a view to securing its long term future.


Until then, the Council will provide £128,500 through its reserves, if necessary and refers the matter to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee for consideration.”


            The Director of Finance and Resources reported that the Council had, in the previous year, provided funding of £75,000 to the Citywide Tribunal Service, following the completion of a due diligence exercise. The Department for Communities had contributed £70,400 over the same period but it was his understanding that it had yet to allocate funding for this year. He confirmed that, should the Committee be minded to provide funding of £128,500, as called for in the motion, £75,000 could be made available immediately from the Council’s reserves. The Council would, however, be required to undertake additional due diligence to justify the allocation of the remaining £53,500. He added that the City and Neighbourhood Services Department had provided the Service with £15,000 of grant funding towards the development of a sustainable financial model, moving forward, and that work on that was continuing but would be unlikely to be completed within the current year.   


            With the permission of the Chairperson, Councillor Ferguson highlighted the importance of the Citywide Tribunal Service and pointed out that it had been forced to operate year-on-year without a clear core funding commitment. She explained that the Service could provide Council officers with valid reasons for the increase in its costs and referred also to the increased workload which staff were facing, particularly around the Personal Independent Payment tribunal process, and the uncertain operating conditions in which they were working.  She urged the Committee to support her request for £128,500 to be allocated to the Service to allow it to remain open for the period ahead and concluded by stressing the need to meet with the Minister for Communities at the earliest opportunity to discuss its long-term future.    


            After discussion, the Committee:


i.        agreed to allocate funding of £75,000 from the Council’s reserves to the Citywide Tribunal Service for this year; and


ii.      agreed, in principle, to allocate the remaining £53,500 to the Citywide Tribunal Service, subject to all due diligence requirements being met, with a report on the outcome of that process being submitted to a future meeting.


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