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Showing posts from 2015

Pomp and Ceremony is not enough.

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The Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Civic Reception to congratulate the Northern Ireland team was a very good event. It was well managed and local lads Steve Davis and Michael O’Neil rightly received the plaudits and best wishes they so richly deserve. However the event was also inappropriate in scale and ostentatiousness. When I supported a proposal for a Civic Reception at the council meeting on the 2nd November 2015 my expectation was of a modest affair certainly not a 6 course dinner and the accompanying pomp and ceremony. This town and the wider council area have been hit hard by the loss of jobs over the past year. Across the area workers in manufacturing fear the request that staff should gather in the canteen for an announcement. We as elected representatives cannot carry on business as usual. We cannot continue to offer pomp and spin as answers to the real problems that affect our communities. I want the Northern Ireland team to return, not to a fancy dinner with the g…

A Testimony to Courage

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On Monday night Mid and East Antrim Borough Council considered a request from the UDR Association to place a memorial to those who served in the Memorial Garden, Ballymena.

I was absent for the decision, as a former member of the Regiment I was required to declare an interest and leave the chamber as did two other Councillors who had also served, one being the Mayor.

The original request for permission to erect the memorial was made some 5 years ago to the legacy Ballymena Borough Council. For the past 5 years this proposal has been sidelined and filibustered by the actions of Nationalists and Republicans on the Council. That process ended with the establishment of the new council in April of this year.

What did not end was the vitriolic hatred directed at those who served in the Regiment by elements of Nationalism and Republicanism. Over 40,000 men and women served in the Regiment during the years of conflict. A tiny minority broke the law and committed terrible crimes but theirs is…

What do terrorists do if they don't do terrorism?

The Secretary of States acknowledgement that the Provisionals still exist in a formal structure hasn’t really come as a surprise. It has been suspected since the sign off from P O’Neil, but those who dared mention the possibility were immediately demonised as being anti-peace process. So now it’s openly acknowledged that they exist what exactly could they be doing? Foremost amongst their activities will be the standard Republican action during periods of reduced violence, ensuring that enough pikes are stored in the thatch for the next generation. Of course this will mean weapons or the means to procure them but it also means establishing the intelligence networks and the training of the next generation to initiate violence if required. These actions meet two objectives, the military preparations can mirror and be rationalised as the insidious infiltration of civic society by a political movement, the fund raising, legal or illegal, the intelligence gathering, the recruitment and train…

Air Ambulance provision in Northern Ireland

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The death of Dr John Hinds in a motorcycle accident was a tragedy for his family, the motorcycling fraternity and indeed the wider community through the loss of a talented medical practitioner. His passing has led to renewed calls for the introduction of an air ambulance to Northern Ireland, a cause he had championed for some time. It is a cause which in the right circumstances will provide additional benefit to the delivery of pre-hospital emergency care in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately at this time those circumstances do not yet exist. Amongst the circumstances required is the need for a sustainable ambulance service capable of meeting the existing requirements in terms of service delivery. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service requires additional funding and resources in order to meet these requirements. In a response to Kathleen Torney of The Detail published on 26 June 2014NIAS Chief Executive Liam McIvor highlighted some of the difficulties facing the service. “We continue…

Giant Hogweed

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I never really got the fascination with Giant Hogweed until I actually saw it in person. It's big, really big and from what those who have touched it tell me very, very nasty.


I've asked Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to take action wherever this is growing on council property and to engage other landowners where it is an issue. I've also asked for warning signs to be put up warning people of the dangers.

Desertcreat

The news of the collapse of the proposal for a world class police and fire service training college at Desertcreat comes as no surprise to those of us who questioned the need and financial sustainability of the project in the first place. While local politicians, rightly, sought the investment, any investment in their area those at a higher level were distracted by all that glittered and failed to realise the proposal was not gold. Strategic planning must be about more than considering which papers carry the photo of the cutting of the first sod.

Politics

The comments below were first made on a previous blog I had in 2012 but are, I think just as relevant.Instead of just reforming the institutions, reducing the number of departments, reducing the number of MLA’s Councillors and MP’s why don’t we take a further step and change the way we think about politics and politicians.For many people inside and outside the system politics is about power, yet such a term sums up the inadequacies within the current system. Power can be used for good or bad, in fact it doesn’t have to be used all it can just be held onto to prevent others from getting access to it.Do power politics meet the needs of society, not if that power isn’t used to generate the changes needed to improve society.If we are to change society we must start by changing the concept of politics from being about taking power to one of taking responsibility.What difference would we see if those who were elected were held personally responsible for every child growing up in poverty, fo…

Change the world

I had a thought the other day about what I wanted to achieve in politics, be a councillor or did I want to be an MLA, was being a MP the ultimate achievement. After thinking about the options I came to the conclusion it was none of these. I want to change the world.

That's not the mad ranting of a megalomaniac it may seem, I'm no Bill Gates, I haven't found a cure for something nasty but I do want to change the world. Maybe not the whole world but each day I try to change someone's world for the better. I might help someone with a welfare appeal, get a house, a planning issue, an issue with a school and many more. For each person I help I change their world, sometimes substantially.

So why politics? Well, instead of changing the world one person one day at a time I want to make bigger decisions for more people all at once. Instead of one appeal, make the assessment process fairer so that more people get what they are entitled too without the trauma of an appeal. Instead …

Lord Molyneaux

Today we learned of the passing of Lord Molyneaux, Jim as he was widely known. I first met Jim through his nephew Ian, a friend from school. Once we were old enough to drive a group of us would regularly head out the road to Crumlin to Ian's home farm. Nestled behind high hedges was Jims home and at that time stalking the farm buildings were the police guards ever present. Frequently as we tucked in to Ian's mums home baking Jim would drop in to say hello. His quiet demeanour and ways in keeping with the dignity with which he served the constituency. I learned then that politics was not about shouting, it was and remains about talking, with the quiet confidence of being right. I last spoke to Jim a few years ago at the local agricultural show as he sat at the UUP stand enjoying the weather and the craic. Already showing the signs of the illness that would dull his sharp mind he still focussed intently when the conversation turned to Westminster and politics. As an Ulster Union…

A healthy agenda

Delighted to say that the creation of a healthy community has been recognised as a key objective in the corporate plan for Mid and East Antrim Council after the consultation on the draft flagged up that it was not given a high enough priority.

The changing tide

Having raised the issue of the widespread, in my view inappropriate at times, use of agency staff some months ago it was heartening to see the groundswell of support for the regularisation of employment practice in the new council at last nights meeting. Such a transformation will take some time to deliver as re-organisation beds in but it is clear that council officers know the mind of the elected reps and will produce a strategic workforce plan that respects all our employees.

Regalia, who pays?

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"During a recent committee meeting dealing with the provision of regalia it became clear that some proposals such as dis-assembling the current chains of office and creating new chains from the various pieces were simply not viable. With that in mind I proposed that the cost of any new regalia should be met by reducing the amount of Special Responsibility Allowance payable to Councillors over the next few years. The rationale is simple, such items have rarely been purchased from the public purse, instead they have been presented by groups, businesses and others as gifts when such donations were common place. Society is different and it is possible that such generosity does not easily present itself. The Chief Executive has suggested that she believes new regalia will be presented to the Council and on that basis I have withdrawn my proposal with the intention that should such donations not be forthcoming I will once again make the same proposal. If needed we should have the conf…

Health and Well-being must be core of new council vision

"For many years it has been recognised that health promotion and ill-health prevention leads to a better quality of life and a reduction in demand on health services. The reform of local government was always intended to deliver better outcomes in addressing social deprivation and promoting healthier lifestyles. That means that community planning, well-being, sport and leisure amongst others can all be used to integrate services with other agencies to the benefit of residents. More playgrounds mean safer healthier children, better sports facilities means healthier residents a commitment to build healthy communities means a better society. Mid and East Antrim Council has a desire to influence others such as health bodies on how they deliver services, such influence would be weakened considerably if we as a council did not show that promoting a healthier society was one of our core objectives."

Change in working practice vital in local council reform

There are occasions when the use of staff from recruitment agencies makes absolute sense in terms of workforce planning such as when someone is off on maternity leave or when additional workers are employed during the summer months. However where there are core council posts which exist year in and year out the use of such agency contracts is highly questionable. Those employed lack the same opportunities for advancement as council employees and when asked about pay and conditions of such staff Council has responded "In regard to those who do not qualify for equal pay and conditions, we do not hold this level of information, this responsibility lies with the appropriate agency." As we move forward into a new managerial scenario a full review of employment practices must be undertaken.
Responses to FOI request from Ballymena Borough Council
1: The number of agency workers employed by Ballymena Borough Council as of the 1 April in each of the last 5 years.
Ballymena Boroug…