Mid and East Antrim’s Larne port role could cost ratepayers £5m, council is told

Funding council staff to carry out post-Brexit checks at the Port of Larne could cost Mid and East Antrim ratepayers almost £5m, it was suggested at a meeting of the borough council this week.

Currently, 12 environmental health officers employed by the local authority are funded entirely by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Larne Lough DUP councillor Alderman Paul Reid  who is a member of the council’s Audit Committee said: “The Cabinet Office has a crucial role to play in stepping up and ensuring that the ratepayers of Mid and East Antrim do not pick up a bad deal from Europe.

“This Protocol has not helped the people of Mid and East Antrim. It has failed and will continue to fail until we get rid of it.”

The Port of Larne (archive image).

Anne Donaghy, the council’s chief executive, told councillors that an audit was carried out at the DAERA facility at Redlands Road in Larne by European Union Commission inspectors on June 22 and the local authority is awaiting the findings.

Meanwhile, she indicated that staff have been asked to increase the number of checks being carried out.

Further Irish Sea border checks on food products are expected to be introduced in four phases from October, starting with meat products followed by dairy foods, plants and wine in January 2022.

She reported that construction of a new border control post in the harbour area has been postponed until 2023.

Mid and East Antrim Deputy Mayor Cllr Matthew Armstrong

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly described the monthly EU and Protocol Report to council as “unbalanced”.

Commenting on a survey by the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group, which has highlighted several solutions to the Protocol, Cllr Donnelly said: “The Group has expressed the belief that the Protocol has the potential to deliver opportunities for Northern Ireland.”

He went to say that he has asked for an economic impact assessment of the Northern Ireland Protocol on local business to be carried out by the council, which he said, he hoped would be delivered soon.

He also asked for a report on the opinion of the Manufacturing Taskforce on its analysis on the impact of Protocol to be brought back to councillors.

Carrickfergus Alderman Billy Ashe informed the meeting of a £483 cost of a fight from Northern Ireland to Birmingham whereas a flight from Dublin to the city, he suggested, could be purchased for £280.

“Where’s the concerns about the scale of economy in that. The UK is our largest trading partner,” he remarked.

“Until we resolve these issues, businesses won’t thrive.”

Ballymena Alliance Councillor Patricia O’Lynn pointed out that the Protocol has “nothing to do with free movement of people on planes” adding that a return flight to the Balearics can be purchased for £60.

Ald Reid went on to say that it could cost the ratepayer £4.8m if the council does not get funding for environmental health officers’ posts at the Port of Larne in the future.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan proceeded to quote Easyjet flight prices before saying he was “quite confident that in time there will be technical solutions” available for goods checks.

Deputy Mayor Councillor Matthew Armstrong who was chairing the meeting remarked: “I don’t want to turn this into a ‘Go Compare’ episode.”

The chief executive indicated that she would put Cllr Donnelly request into a report next month.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter


Click here to read: EU Commission carries out audit of Port of Larne DAERA border control post


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