The scourge of drug dealers in society

Climate of fear in parts of Ballymena must be brought to an end
Ulster Unionist Councillor Stephen Nicholl has called on police, courts and agencies such as the Housing Executive to bring to an end the climate of fear created by the presence of drug dealers in parts of Ballymena.
“It’s becoming apparent that drug dealers are becoming more brazen in their activities and as a result local communities are living in fear of the crime and anti-social behaviour that accompanies their activities.
The police and other statutory agencies are well aware of the dealers and suppliers as well as the heart-breaking results of their activities. We see daily the effect of their dealing on those addicted to drugs but less obvious is the impact on local communities where violence and the threat of violence goes hand in hand with the dealers activities.
As a society we have a responsibility to protect the innocent; that means a robust policing response where intelligence indicates illegality, a judiciary co…

Statement on rates process 2018/2019

“As a council we approach the setting of the rates for 2018/2019 in a crisis, albeit one that is temporarily deferred due to the extensive use of council reserves. The loss of rates income due to the reduction in energy production at Kilroot and Ballylumford is estimated at £1.3 million next year and £2 million every subsequent year. It is also fair to say that there were significant issues with council’s budgetary process even before the Kilroot announcement.
Council had a target of raising £1.5 million through efficiency savings in 2018/19, with a loss of £1.3 million we realistically must save £2.5 million to replace the reserves used this year. We cannot assume that there will not be significant losses in future years.
During the meeting to set the rates Cllr Gaston identified savings of £1 million and sought to use these to have the rates rise reduced. The cost savings he identified are broadly reasonable and should be taken forward. But they are not enough, the proposed rise of 2.…

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…