Press release in advance of rates process

Nicholl – Councils must provide value for money and avoid rates hikes
Ballymena Ulster Unionist Councillor Stephen Nicholl has warned against councils increasing rates bills for local people and businesses, and of the importance of using public funds wisely to provide value for money. 
Councillor Nicholl said:
“This week’s assessment of the budgetary crisis facing Northern Ireland should leave us in no doubt that an ever increasing financial burden could fall on local citizens. With inflation outstripping pay awards and some touting the return of prescription charges, rent increases and the implementation of welfare reform potentially driving more families into poverty, there is no doubt that local government faces considerable challenges in setting this year's local and business rates.
“While council costs will rise, passing on that burden to an already impoverished population is not an easy option. Indeed, councils should be carefully reflecting on their service delivery and plans fo…

Last years rates

In advance of this year's rates process I thought it would be useful to publish my statement from last year on the process. It will be interesting to see if council has recognized the fundamental responsibility it carries to diligently manage public finances in this years process.
Ulster Unionist Party Rates Statement The Ulster Unionist Party met with the Chief Executive and the Director of Finance in advance of the rates setting process on the 15th November 2016. At that meeting the Chief Executive indicated that it was her intention to bring forward a recommendation of a rate increase of 2.32% to the rates meeting in February. The rationale outlined for the increase related to the need to address the gap in organisational infrastructure in relation to Economic Development staffing and resources. The Ulster Unionist Party accepts that it is vital that our Economic Development and Tourism capacity is brought up to strength to help meet our priority of growing our local economy, this i…

The letter to Theresa

So this is the letter from the Executive Office to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the issues affecting Northern Ireland arising from Brexit.
There are no surprises, the issues identified after the vote are the same as those identified before the vote, just not by the Leave campaign and certainly not by the DUP.
The same issues when raised before the 23rd June were called scaremongering, now the DUP are scared. The border was always going to be an issue, the U.K. Electorate demand a hard border with the EU, the DUP supported this even going so far as placing ads in UK publications. Now that Brexit means Brexit and the front door will be locked at Dover where will the back door be. With this letter and demands for the same immigration rules as the Republic of Ireland it won't be at Newry. The U.K cannot permit EU nationals to freely travel into the UK through Ireland North or South if the demands of the electorate to limit immigration from EU countries is to be met. 

Freedom of speech

Last night's meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council considered whether or not council should be represented at "Irish Fest" in Milwaukee next year. It was determined by the Chief Executive that this item should be taken "in committee" in order to prevent any Councillor publicly debating the issue after the decision was taken as to do so would be deemed to be in contravention of the Councillor Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is not a mechanism to restrict the freedom of political thought or speech and so, recognising the potential consequences, I have published below my assessment of Council's representation at "Irish Fest" which was first sent to council officers on the 16th October 2016.
Any evaluation of marketing spend based on Council’s investment in attending the Milwaukee Irish Fest should consider a number of issues given the cost of attendance and the requirement to achieve a return on marketing investment of 30-40 times the v…

Authoritarian politics

The DUP conference at the weekend established without doubt that its primary objective remains the elimination of Ulster Unionism from the political map of Northern Ireland. Not a comment or harsh word against its partners in Government but plenty of antagonism against the UUP, all the more sweet for parading 3 “defectors”. Of just as much interest was the increasing degree of internal control being exerted over its own members. The DUP equivalent of a “liberal” wing had started to stir under the last months of the Robinson regime but its leading voice Paula Bradley was reduced to stating in an interview when asked about same sex marriage which she is rumoured to be supportive of “I am a member of the DUP I will do what my party asks me to do” and on the signing the petition of concern “we have no other option but to do that”. Those who are drawn to membership of the DUP seek the comfort of an authoritarian party in the hope of achieving an authoritarian state albeit that power is s…

Community Planning Theory and Practice

With the Review of Public Administration and the transformation of local government in Northern Ireland came a new power, that of Community Planning. The term taking power, rather than framing the process as taking responsibility, could allow some to argue that they are there to hold others to account. Such a view would limit a council's direct involvement in addressing issues at the same time as being flexible enough to both place blame where failures occur and take credit where positive actions happen.

Community planning is intended to be transforming, not just in getting agencies and communities around the table but clearly identifying where resources can be applied to greater effect. A reduction in duplication, an increase in early detection of problems and strategic intervention to deliver a better outcome for all. Each agency has its own agenda, its own budget and targets, a thread which runs through peoples lives. If each thread runs parallel to every other thread without t…

My paper to Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillors on their ARC 21 consideration

On the 2nd of June Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will meet to determine whether or not to support the ARC 21 decision to refer the former Minister of the Environment’s Notice of Opinion to refuse planning permission for an Energy From Waste plant at Hightown Road in Mallusk to the Planning Appeals Commission. The Minister’s opinion to refuse was based on two factors 1. The proposal is contrary to the DOE’s PPS 11 in that it has not been clearly demonstrated that the proposed method of treatment will not result in harm to human health. 2. The proposal would result in an additional waste treatment facility that is not considered necessary in light of other approved developments in the region and would run contrary to the program of encouraging recycling through “zero waste”. The Planning Appeals Commission does not have the power to overturn the Minister’s opinion, their purpose is to determine whether the Minister’s reasons are robust and justifiable. Confirmation of a plan…