Northern Ireland

Audits into community groups’ delivery of Belfast City Council funds unfinished

Belfast City Council's planning committee has approved statues of Mary Ann McCracken and Winifred Carney in the grounds of City Hall
Audits into three Belfast City Council emergency relief schemes have yet to be completed

Audits ordered at least a year ago into the delivery of Belfast City Council funding by outside organisations have yet to be completed.

The three spending probes, which are being carried out by an unnamed company, relate to the council’s use of so-called local strategic partners – or community groups – to distribute more than £4.5 million of ratepayers’ money.

The audits relate to the delivery of Covid-19 funding, the council’s 2021-22 food/fuel voucher scheme, and its fuel hardship programme, the delivery of which last year led to concerns about its administration.

As a formality, the finished reports will be shared with local government auditor Collette Kane.

Local government auditor Collette Kane

Belfast City Council’s £1m fuel poverty hardship fund faced criticism over the manner in which households were expected to secure the £100 worth of vouchers available.

Distributed on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, the scheme was administered on the council’s behalf by nine community groups.

Concerns about the scheme included people queueing in public for vouchers, sometimes in vain, and the dissemination of information about availability.

Sinn Féin and the DUP, the council’s two largest parties, were accused of a “carve-up” in nominating the groups to distribute the vouchers.

SDLP councillor Carl Whyte said he was hopeful the audits could be “finalised as soon as possible”.

SDLP councillor Carl Whyte. Picture by Mal McCann
SDLP councillor Carl Whyte PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

“It’s important councillors understand the full range of issues which emerged during the implementation of these schemes, including whether they represented value-for-money,” he said.

“I have spoken to council officials who have assured me that all three audits will be completed in the coming weeks and presented to the relevant council committee for proper scrutiny by elected representatives.”

A spokesperson for the council confirmed that the three audits had yet to be completed.