Northern Ireland

Call for council to stop emptying QUB halls of residence bins

Queen's Elms halls of residence. Picture by Mal McCann
Queen's Elms halls of residence. Picture by Mal McCann

A BELFAST councillor has suggested the council stops emptying bins at Queen’s University halls of residence after it emerged the university was not paying rates on student blocks.

SDLP representative Carl Whyte made the suggestion as councillors debated an 8 per cent hike in the district rate.

Belfast City Council has spent more than £100,000 in the past year on waste services at student accommodation, some of which were exempt from paying rates.

The council agreed to look at its role in providing waste services for the non rate paying halls of residence.

Last week DUP MLA and finance spokesperson Gordon Lyons said he was questioning the Stormont Department of Finance, after it emerged no rates were being paid on 14 student accommodation blocks in Northern Ireland, including three privately operated properties, at a yearly cost of £2 million to the public purse.

Stormont officials have said the exemption was planned to be scrapped in 2018, but Covid and political logjam delayed the process. Queens said the exemption means prices for student accommodation are 25 per cent lower than private student apartments in Belfast.

Mr Whyte said: "Because we are essentially subsidising student accommodation waste, that means there are 4,764 terraced houses with a £24 increase per year that is funding the collection of that waste.

“Queen’s University in its last balance sheet had a surplus of £18 million, with £75 million cash in the bank. I can’t think of a bigger bank account balance in Belfast than that. As well as an investment portfolio of £225 million."