What makes a good local Councillor?

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Over the coming weeks hundreds of people will be seeking a job with an interview panel of thousands asking questions about their ability to deal with local problems, create jobs and run local services. But, this year will be a little bit different as local councils take on a lot more powers.

Speaking about the changes to local councils the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, Derek McCallan, made the point that as a community we need to place much greater focus on the work of councils saying;

We all know the old adage that councils are perceived by some as being no more than births, bins and burials. We want to challenge that myth. Councils are the civic hub of our communities and will have new powers to plan, drive invest in and develop local places, from cities to hamlets, from coastlines to creative industries.

Below are some of the new powers that new councils will be taking on from April 2015 and should be a useful job specification for voters to judge who would be the best candidate to deal with these issues.

Community planning

This will provide a framework within which Councils, departments, statutory bodies and other relevant agencies and sectors can work together to develop and implement a shared vision for promoting the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area based on effective engagement with the community.

General Power of Competence

This will enable a council, in broad terms, to act with similar freedom to an individual, unless there is a law to prevent it from doing so.  It would provide a council with the ability to act in its own interest and to develop innovative approaches to addressing issues in its area. So when you think about this it gives councils power to do anything, like say for example, if they wanted to build a leisure centre they could borrow the money to do so. The scope here is massive.

Planning

Local development plan functions

Development control and enforcement

Roads

Off street parking (except Park and Ride)

Urban regeneration and community development

Functions associated with physical development (e.g. environmental improvement

schemes)

Area based regeneration (such as Neighbourhood Renewal)

Some community development programmes for the voluntary and community sectors

Housing

Registration of houses in multiple occupation

Housing unfitness responsibilities, including repair and demolition notices

Local Economic Development (transfer from Invest NI)

Start a Business Programme and Enterprise Shows

Youth Entrepreneurship (such as Prince’s Trust and Shell Livewire)

Social Entrepreneurship

Investing for Women

Neighbourhood Renewal funding relating to enterprises initiatives

Local Tourism

Small scale tourism accommodation development

Providing business support including business start up advice along with training and

delivery of customer care schemes

Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Other

Some elements of the delivery of the EU Rural Development Programme;

Authority to Spot List to enable Councils to add a building to the statutory list on a

temporary basis, subject to ratification by the DOE;

Authority to draw up local lists of buildings that are of architectural and/or historic

interest;

Armagh County Museum;

Local water recreational facilities;

Local sports (greater involvement of local government in local sports decisions);

Donaghadee Harbour

Slugger commentators-who would you pick to deal with these issues? What do you think makes a good councillor?

 

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  • between the bridges

    Its easy to slate councillors, mainly because a lot of them are invisible apart from election time, but at the same time there are some very hard working councillors who actually care about their communities, unfortunately they are in the minority…

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Another attempt to take Politics out of Politics and talk up the “right kind” of politician.
    Politics is NOT and never should be an academic spectator sport.

    What makes a good councillor is simple….one who shares my view of the world and has the ability to push my agenda. It helps if the bins are emptied before 10am.
    But frankly I dont care if the worlds most lauded political brain…or humanitarian …is standing in my DEA, if he or she is not a member of two (or possibly) three parties, they wont be getting a vote from me.

    Politics and Elections are NOT about who gets elected.
    Its all about who does the “electing”.

  • Barnshee

    If the thought of the brain dead/economically illiterate/gombeen/party hack creatures who make up these “Councillors” getting new powers fails to fill you full of dread -then you are naive beyond help.

  • Barnshee

    I feel about “councillors” the way Goering felt about culture

  • notimetoshine

    I dread the idea of local councils getting more responsibilities, the sectarian merry go round is if anything worse in our local councils than in the assembly.

    @Fitzjames horse

    “…But frankly I dont care if the worlds most lauded political brain…or humanitarian …is standing in my DEA, if he or she is not a member of two (or possibly) three parties, they wont be getting a vote from me.”

    If this is the case prepare yourself for a never ending saga of disappointments and incompetent governance. If ever there was a level of government that cries out for practical politics above party political ideologies it is local government.

  • Charles_Gould

    On the whole the bad ones are those who send out an embarrassing image of your city or town. Its easy to think of examples, including that UKIP guy from the Cotswolds who linked gay marriage and the recent floods.

    The good ones are those who get on with the practical stuff and hopefully make the town a better place to work, live, invest in, and visit.

    A good councillor was James Curry, of Ballymena UUP, who organised a counter-protest when loyalists picketed a Catholic church there (a lot of people turned up for the counter protest, i.e. the protest against the picketers). His good example showed that some councillors are willing to stand up against the lowest common denominator in their tribe.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    NoTimeToShine,
    The only disappointment in Politics is Betrayal.
    Id rather have an incompetent honest person than an intelligent phoney.

  • notimetoshine

    @Fitzjameshorse

    So you are willing to accept mediocre and substandard services and government to preserve ideological integrity? We will be left to wallow in poor services, an unsupported economy and poor governance.

    What is the point in a party sticking to its ideology even if it flies in the face of reality and present circumstances?

    You essentially doom us.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Of course I would.
    Absolutely.
    Having said that I dont see any direct connexion between Ideology and Competence.
    Whats the point in having the 400 most moral people in Norn Iron if they are all members of (say) Green Party.
    What is the point in the point of 400 most Intelligent people in Norn Iron if they are all members of (say) DUP.

    Perhaps it would play well in some parts of South Belfast….but if the ballot paper had independently verified IQ scores…maybe people with a score lower than 120 should not be on the ballot.

    I take the view that the ballot paper will include names of people who are inviting me to agree to their manifesto.
    And of course they are making certain promises as to their competence and integrity.
    But I wont be looking past….nationalnist-republican-socialist.
    Thats my agenda.

  • notimetoshine

    Well I don’t see any direct link between competence and IQ. I am sure you don’t need a particularly high IQ to be competent in a role.

    But what I am getting at is why have elected politicians whose only reason for their election is their/their parties ideology even if they are clearly not competent enough to do their jobs?

    We should have a focus on practical/functional politics from competent politicians.

    Ideology is all well and good but when it interferes with the functions and services provided by a government, surely practical and pragmatic politics would be the answer? It would certainly help Stormont, Basil McCrea had it right when he hit out at the uselessness of our current administration and the parties holding it up.

  • Reader

    Vote flags? Or vote bins?
    The answer is obvious. The problem is that different answers are obvious to different people.

  • SDLP supporter

    What a detestably smug attitude from Barnshee. What on earth is he or she even doing on a site that deals mainly in politics. I am a political partisan but I do acknowledge that the great majority of those who put their names forward as council candidates, from whatever party, want to make a contribution to the public commonweal. What are the great qualities than Barnshee thinks he or she has?

  • notimetoshine

    @SDLP supporter

    “…great majority of those who put their names forward as council candidates, from whatever party, want to make a contribution to the public commonwealth…

    If that is the case then we have a major problem because the focus of our local political environment is on the sectarian merry go round of constitutional and cultural issues.

    Endless divisive bickering is hardly conducive to the public commonwealth is it?

  • Barnshee

    “What are the great qualities than Barnshee thinks he or she has?”

    There is no compulsion to be a councillor

    My concern is an absence of “qualities”

    Councillors are invariably part hacks .Their concerns are their party position, allowances and millage rates. Their record is in preserving a plethora of mickey mouse “councils” with “chief executives” and assorted panjandrums who would be lucky to get any job outside the public sector.

    Take trips to

    1 Your local council office
    2 Your local dole/social security/tax office

    Compare and contrast. They are all public offices staffed by public servants-the money spent on “council” buildings is a disgrace on two levels
    1 Frantic spending as the end was in sight
    2 Outrageous overspend on materials etc

    Professionally qualified “councillors” with material business experience are thin on the ground —to put it mildly

    “the focus of our local political environment is on the sectarian merry go round of constitutional and cultural issues.”

  • SDLP supporter

    Barnshee, success in business rarely translates into political effectiveness. George W. Bush had an MBA from Harvard Business School and was probably the worst-ever US President. In contrast, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman had pretty unsuccessful business careers but were highly effective US Presidents. Robert McNamara, JFK’s Defence Secretary, had run Ford Motor Company highly successfully but was a monumentally disastrous political operator responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, both Vietnamese and US.

    I agree with you that there are too many councils and, even under the new model, it is ridiculous that there is an average of 3,572 voters per councillor in Belfast and an average of 2,027 voters per councillor in Fermanagh and Omagh. If they had equalised the number of councillors throughout the North, we could had reduced the number of councillors from 582, not to 462, but to about 350. SDLP missed a trick there.

  • Zig70

    What I don’t want is a £1500 yearly bill to get my bins lifted. A lot of the tasks would be more cost effective at a provincial level. Might help to take the corruption, perceived or otherwise out of planning.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “George W. Bush had an MBA from Harvard Business School and was probably the worst-ever US President.”

    @SDLP supporter,

    Most historians would rate hands down James Buchanan as the worst president as his passivity helped to cause the American Civil War, the most costly war in terms of casualties in American history. Next they would probably rate his immediate predecessor, Franklin Pierce, as the next worst because his activities also contributed to the coming of the war. When your knowledge base only goes back 70 years or so I can see imagining that George W. Bush was the worst president, but there was a long string of very mediocre presidents both before and after the Civil War.

    “Robert McNamara, JFK’s Defence Secretary, had run Ford Motor Company highly successfully but was a monumentally disastrous political operator responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, both Vietnamese and US.”

    Running the American military involvement in Vietnam was only one of many of McNamara’s tasks as defense (not defence–he was American) secretary. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were responsible for deciding on overall policy. Luckily for Kennedy’s subsequent historical reputation he was shot to death. And it was the American generals and admirals actually in South Vietnam that were responsible for the daily running of the war. An American defense secretary is mainly responsible for deciding defense budget allocation within the Pentagon and fighting for a large defense budget against other departments. Had McNamara been so bad at his job he probably would not have been appointed to head the World Bank once he left.

    “I agree with you that there are too many councils and, even under the new model, it is ridiculous that there is an average of 3,572 voters per councillor in Belfast and an average of 2,027 voters per councillor in Fermanagh and Omagh.”

    There are a limited number of discrete tasks and duties to be performed by a councillor, and so a larger city like Belfast does not necessarily need the same number of councillors per constituents or vice versa as rural regions.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “But I wont be looking past….nationalnist [sic]-republican-socialist.
    Thats my agenda.”

    @fjh,

    Unfortunately competency is hard to discern from a name on a ballot paper and all forms of proportional representation tend to encourage voting for the party rather than the person. But does someone really need to be a socialist or a republican to manage the three b’s? In a normal society competence at mundane tasks is the normal criterion of voters for local government. You have just confessed that you don’t want NI to ever be a normal society.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Absolutely.
    Indeed I blogged just yesterday that I dont want Norn Iron to be “normal”.
    Its not a “confession” (clearly you dont mean to imply any crime or moral inferiority on my part)….it is just a statement off fact.
    I have absolutely no interest in Norn Iron being a “normal” society.