Showing posts from 2016

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…

When the game is not straight

As a society we promote growing our economy as our priority. Such a policy represents clear political thinking that a growing economy will improve the quality of life of all our citizens. To ensure this our government must manage expectations and investments to ensure that all our citizens have an equal opportunity to benefit. In Northern Ireland we continue to struggle with the concept of ensuring a return on the investment we make or indeed recognising the value of the investment that others make. Investing in health, education, further and higher education represent areas where we know the cost of everything and the value of very little. Occasionally we have the opportunity for others to invest in us, in Northern Ireland. We ask them to come here, to invest money on the basis that, rightly, all things being equal they will receive a return on that investment and we too will benefit, through employment, taxation or services. Sometimes it works. Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes …

Manufacturing Task Force press release


Setting the rates

It's the time of year when Councils set the rate for the incoming financial year. For press, public and indeed many councillors the percentage increase or decrease is the defining issue. For some councillors their interest in the process begins and ends with that figure. For others the process represents the budget setting process for the next year and in Mid and East Antrim that represents just under £60 million of expenditure. Any budget process must answer fundamental questions, what are we committing resources to, why are we committing resources and what do we intend to achieve? Does our use of ratepayers' money represent good value and contribute to improving their quality of life? Over the next few weeks I hope to get the answers to these and many other questions to give me the confidence that council is focused on the right issues.