A charity that was established by the Northern Irish government has announced it will close due to a pension deficit.
The Rural Development Council (RDC), which supports the development of rural areas across Northern Ireland, was established by the government in 1991 before becoming an independent company in 2006 and then more recently registering as a charity.
In a statement, the charity said it had been forced to close at the end of March due to a deficit resulting from its membership of the Local Government Pension Scheme in Northern Ireland, which is administered by the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).
David Davison, director of Spence & Co, said the charity was trapped in the scheme because it could not afford to exit, which meant it had to pay substantial contributions each year.
He said this "would effectively deplete their assets resulting in a slow and painful demise".
The charity, which has an income of £678,000 according to its latest accounts, paid £180,000 in pension deficit contributions in the year to March 2018.
'More protection for charities needed'
Tony McCusker, the charity’s chair, called on the Northern Irish government to provide more support for organisations trying to exit the pension scheme.
He said: “A series of unfortunate circumstances including a substantial pension deficit, a continued annual hike in pension costs, the inflexibility of the NILGOSC pension scheme regulations and a lack of political stability have all played a part in the closure.
“We have witnessed a number of charities closing over recent years with increasing pension costs often the main contributor.
“For us it is extremely frustrating and disappointing that our local government pension scheme is not doing more to protect Northern Ireland charities in the way that other government schemes are across the UK.
“Government seriously needs to find better solutions, other than insolvency, for organisations to exit the scheme, which are more beneficial to members and to the fund in the long term.”