Derry City & Strabane District Council

Overall ranking: 11/11

AN abundance of food often indicates wealth, but at Strabane Foodbank it reflects the dire need sections of the population find themselves in.

As a council area, Derry & Strabane has the highest unemployment, highest rates, lowest earnings, poor educational attainment, poor life expectancy and the second highest percentage of children on free school meals.

According to Ursula Gallagher who works at the foodbank, hundreds of people depend on the service every week.

“Since we opened the food bank in 2013, nearly 1,600 people availed of the service from the food bank,” she said.

“For people and individuals to come to a food bank, it is very, very hard for them. To come to a food bank, it is totally soul destroying. To them this is their last resort. The type of the people coming are very varied. We see all types right across the board; people that are unemployed but our highest stats are for those on low incomes, working families.”

According to Danny O’Hagan of Strabane Community Project, economic difficulties in the area are nothing new.

“High unemployment in the area is not new. If you go back to 1960, it had been there, and is currently still. When you add Strabane and Derry together now, you have probably the most deprived council of the 11. Unemployment feeds into practically everything.”

For Kenny McAdams of Derry’s Resource Centre, the region’s infrastructural deficit is at the heart of ongoing problems.

He said: “We have not got the two road infrastructures, one going south to Dublin the other going east to Belfast. And certainly the university now with all the cuts going, it looks like we are going to be waiting another 51 years to even get those key elements in.”

See below for a detailed overview of some of the key figures from your area.

COUNCIL BILLS AND DEBT

As of March 31, 2014, the former Derry City council had liabilities of over £77.5million. The former Strabane council had debts of just over £9.3m.

These liabilities include borrowing, money owed to the council by creditors, bank overdrafts and money being set aside for specific purposes.

Under the new 11 council system liabilities are transferred to the new councils, meaning the new Derry City and Strabane council will have debts in the region of £86.8m. This means the council debt per capita in the new district is in the region of £585 – the fifth highest out of the 11 new councils.

At £1,309 per head of population, the new council has the fifth highest level of assets per capita.

Among these assets are facilities such as leisure centres, play parks, arts centres and public parks.

Residents of Derry City and Strabane face the highest rates of any of the 11 districts.

For example, on a £150,000 home, a ratepayer in Derry & Strabane was charged £1,256 in 2015, whilst a ratepayer in Lisburn and Castlereagh (the district with the lowest rates) was charged £1,015 – a difference of nearly 24%.

It should be noted that house values differ considerably between the various council areas (see housing section below). As such, our measure is based on the rate struck in each area and not the average rates bill of residents in each area.

As part of the £30m District Rates Convergence Scheme which seeks to ‘even out differences’ between the rates bills charged in legacy councils, a ratepayer, with a £150,000 home, coming to the new district from the former Strabane council will receive a subsidy of £26 this year.

The subsidy, which will apply to 13,618 homes in Strabane, will be phased out over four years.

EMPLOYMENT

At 8%, the new Derry City & Strabane Council has the highest percentage of residents on the 2014 unemployment claimant count out of the 11 new districts. This represents 7,687 claimants.

The claimant count is a measure of the number of persons claiming unemployment related benefit (Jobseeker's Allowance).

The NI average for the 12 month period stood at 4.6%.

Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) figures show that in April 2015 the claimant count of working age people in the district was 7.1% (6,770). However, Detail Data has used the 2014 annual figures and not the monthly figure to provide a more long term picture of employment issues.

Workers in the district also have the lowest earnings of any of the 11 council areas, with Annual Survey of Hours and Eanrings (ASHE) figures for 2014 revealing median earnings of £16,580.

The median across all 11 councils was £18,764.

EDUCATION

The new district also scores poorly in terms of educational attainment and the percentage of the population who have a third level qualification.

The district’s schools come third from bottom in terms of educational attainment – the percentage of Year 12 pupils achieving five or more GCSEs (A*to C) including English and maths – at just 61.7%. Overall, the NI average is 64.3%.

At 28.7% the district has the highest percentage of school children entitled to free school meals.

The 2013/14 NI average was 17.8%.

The district is also bottom of the table in terms of the percentage of residents with a third level qualification. At just 20%, the district lags behind the NI average of 23%.

HEALTH

Men and women in the district come second from bottom in terms of life expectancy.

Men in the new district have a life expectancy of 76.73 years whilst women are expected to live 80.76 years.

The district has an acute hospital (Altnagelvin in Derry City).

HOUSING

Figures from the Housing Executive’s District Housing Plans intimates that the new district has the second highest percentage of residents deemed to be in Housing stress.

Around 2,539 of the estimated population (1.71%) are believed to meet the measure.

According to the Department of Finance and Personnel, there are currently 1,388 empty houses in the new district. This is 2.32% of the total housing stock and represents the fourth lowest percentage across the 11 council areas.

According to The Department for Social Development, empty homes cause “blight, property deterioration, anti-social behaviour and vandalism.”

In terms of private housing, the median sales price of residential properties in the period April 2014/March 2015 in Derry was (£90,350) and Strabane (£80,625). Castlereagh had the highest median at £135,000 with Stabane propping up the bottom.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The much publicised collapse of the A5 Dublin-Derry road development scheme and the continued absence of a motorway/dual carriageway between Derry and Belfast leave the district somewhat isolated – despite the presence of an airport and rail line. On the latter, the Into The West rail lobby group has been vocal in relation to shortcomings in service provision, with Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy announcing a £46million upgrade scheme for the stretch between Derry and Coleraine.