Eleven new Councils in NOrthern Irelamd are in the midst of historic Annual General Meetings, determining new Mayors and Chairs together with many positions of responsibility. Councils have also recently struck their first District Rate, and have been prudent in doing do, keeping value for money for ratepayers the top priority.
It is, however, clear that funding for some services transferring to local government is inadequate… planning consultancy and car park maintenance being just two areas of concern.[caption id="attachment_55273" align="alignleft" width="390"] Down District Council Chairman Cllr Billy Walker receives a plaque at a recent presentation from NILGA President Cllr Dermot Curran for the 42 year life of Down District Council. Included is Cllr Terry Andrews, centre.[/caption]
NILGA President, Down District Councillor Dermot Curran, said: “NILGA has professionally campaigned for the NI Executive to maintain the principles of rates neutrality, fitness for purpose and proper resourcing, it is clear that this is far from over.
“We must ensure that a full financial impact review is carried out during 2015/16. Councils will, I have no doubt, be united, gathering evidence of the real and hidden costs being incurred as a direct result of reform. Knowledge and facts will be pulled together to inform our case for central government intervention.
“Councils have been tremendously resilient, but locally and regionally, large budget potholes exist, we need them filled by those responsible.”
NILGA also recognises that, amidst times of austerity, there is a great opportunity… the Review of the Assembly’s departments gives local councils and NILGA the chance to fight for the proper recognition of our sector in both new structures and the emerging Programme for Government.
Councillor Curran added: “NILGA is determined, resolute in its ability to ensure that the importance and capabilities of our sector are highlighted, with Councils equipped to take their place in the transformation of public service delivery.
“The vision of strong local government, with contemporary roles and proper resources to serve our community, will be pursued with compelling evidence at the highest regional and national levels.
“The Reform process has been a long and winding road. There will be more setbacks such as the recent failure to agree Standing Orders Regulations. On this serious issue, I trust that the Department of the Environment, noting that its name will change, will work actively to provide guidance on that matter to councils quickly.
“I am confident, however, that our new councils will deliver a seamless transition in April and will actively use their new powers and responsibilities for the well-being of their districts. It’s time to challenge what’s wrong, deliver what’s right and build the best local government sector for our ratepayers.
“Elected member leadership, competent and motivated staff, innovative thinking, pride in our communities, and great services governed well – let the new Councils, supported by NILGA, be a benchmark of how public services and democracy should be delivered. It’s Chapter One of a New Book – let’s read on,” said Cllr Curran.“]]>