Council told to ‘brace itself’ for rates claw back

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LARNE Borough Council should “brace itself” for a claw back of rates revenue in 2013-14, an MLA has warned.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Oliver McMullan agreed that, as reported in the Larne Times last week, the local authority will not be presented immediately with a demand to cover a £217,000 rebate awarded to AES Ballylumford following a generator failure.

“But my information is that Land and Property Services will certainly be asking for the money back, not this year, but almost definitely in 2013-14 and the council must prepare for that,” said Mr McMullan.

“The bill won’t be for £217,000 because in the interim the council can expect to receive additional revenue, but I am reliably informed it will be over £100,000 and that could have a big impact on the council’s budget,” he added.

It took six months to rebuild the generator at the power station and AES - one of the borough’s biggest ratepayers - was granted the rebate because its bill is calculated according to output. Earlier this year, the council feared that an immediate claw back could result in further efficiency savings that would trim up to 2.5 per cent off departmental budgets.

Mr McMullan said: “I have been heavily involved in the negotiations and I am grateful to the Finance Minister (East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson) and Land and Property Services for devoting so much of their time to a meeting with me on the subject.

“What needs to be done is to look at the actual contract with AES and see what can be done to prevent this happening again because the council really has been held over a barrel.”