Should we consider a directly elected Mayor for Belfast?

Watching the Sunday Politics this morning, I listened to Sinn Fein Councillor Deirdre Hargey and DUP MLA, Gary Middleton discuss the benefits of respective City Deals was could be on their way to Belfast and Derry. I wanted to throw this idea out into the public sphere to find out more about the process. David Sweeting has been examining the impact of a directly elected Mayor in Bristol; Here I discuss two findings that are likely to be of interest … Read more

Day 1 in Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council: already a leap forward in transparency #lccclive

Something wasn’t quite right when I sat down in the council chamber in Lagan Valley Island Centre this morning. In fact, plural: somethings plural weren’t right. The first change was that the laminated cards saying no mobile phones or electronic equipment were no longer sitting on top of every chair in the public gallery. It was okay to take photographs before the council session began but strictly no photos, videos or audio recording once the council was in session. But … Read more

How transparent will the new councils be? The story of Belfast and Lisburn & Castlereagh …

The eleven new councils move from shadow status to the real thing on 1 April. The long-debated Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 sets up the framework on which the new councils work. A new era of openness and transparency has been promised … well, a new era that is more open and more transparent has been promised, although it would be difficult to characterise the new councils as being councils designed for modernity In this post I’m using Belfast … Read more

Irish Water: “Today, the mass of the people are making a comeback.”

I remember the day the Luas opened. Vincent Browne was fulminating furiously on the gross inflation of costs involved, asking the age old question of why no one in journalism was keeping an eye on these runaway baselines which culminated in a tripling of the final cost from the original estimates. It struck me as a good question always to keep in the back pocket when considering southern politics. So why, when all of the matters pertaining to Irish Water … Read more

NI Local Government: results at a glance

As Nicholas said, “This is an election with few dramatic changes.” But, for the record, here are the %s of all the first preference votes from the Northern Ireland Local Government elections. [Updated 462 of 462 seats allocated] Party 1st Pref. +/-*  Seats    DUP  23.1%  -4.1%  130    SF  24.1%  -0.7%  105    UUP  16.1%  +0.9%  88    SDLP  13.6%  -1.4%  66    Others  16.5%  +6.1%  41    Alliance  6.7%  -0.7%  32 *Comparison with First Preference Share in 2011 What drama there is … Read more

Sinn Féin to make new councils work for you

In our latest installment of our series from the various political parties, Sinn Fein tell us why they deserve your vote in the upcoming elections On May 22nd we will elect people to 11 new super councils in what is the biggest shake-up in local government for over 40 years. Powers will be devolved to councils on planning, the environment, the development of local tourism and the regeneration of deprived communities. These changes will enable local representatives to allocate resources … Read more

Will the draft Local Government Bill expand NI council accountability and transparency?

Following on from last week’s post about council accountability and transparency, let’s take a look at the draft Local Government Bill which is current at the committee stage in the NI Assembly. (I’ll also reference NILGA’s response to the draft bill, though it should be noted that the membership of the NI Local Government Association will skew the organisation’s reaction to the draft legislation through the lens of councillors and council executives rather than the public.) As well as covering … Read more

Could new councils be more transparent from the start? Pickles, Castlereagh & a journalist ejected for tweeting

In England … Local government secretary Eric Pickles issued a guide in June to remind English local authorities that under The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 they must allow the public to film and record meetings. He said: Every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities whether it … Read more

Could more independents stand and be elected in council elections?

The majority of councils in Northern Ireland have at least one independent elected councillor. Around half have two or more. Independents received just over 5% of first preference votes in the May 2011 elections, less than Alliance’s 7.4%, but more than the TUV, Green, PUP and UKIP combined. In the last Scottish council elections, independents picked up 10.9% of the votes and over 15% of the seats. Many independent councillors seem to align to parties – often having left them … Read more

At the current rate of progress, gender equality of MLAs at Stormont will only take another 65 years

Bronagh Hinds’ chapter of Everyday Life After the Irish Conflict: The Impact of Devolution and Cross-Border Cooperation [reviewed yesterday] examines women’s political participation points to limited progress in addressing the gender balance of political institutions. The proportion of councillors who are female rose to 24 per cent in 2011 from 14 per cent in 2000. Sounds good. But of the 14 opportunities for co-option in the NI Assembly between 2007 and 2012 2010 “to replace MLAs who had resigned or … Read more

Household Charge: Republic’s government faces into most difficult period of term, so far

I was in conversation with a news anchor from France 24 François Picard the other day, and he asked me what news I had from my part of the world… I said, plainly enough, the same story we get every summer for three months… He replied in heart beat, ‘ah, the marching season‘… However in the other part of the island things these days are much more epic and more serious… we have crisis in part because our politicians don’t … Read more

Republic’s councils: Power without responsibilities?

Here’s one we missed from yesterday. It made the front page in Indo, and concerns the lowest tier of government in the Republic, which are now …relying on overdrafts and bank loans to meet day-to-day expenses, the Irish Independent has learned. This is despite the councils being ordered to reduce their costs and borrowings three years ago — a directive that has been widely ignored. And while the councils themselves are owed more than €500m in unpaid levies, rates and … Read more

Penrose resignation underlines the need for political reform…

I would never suggest that Willie Penrose is not a true supporter [erm, ex supporter – Ed] of the Irish Labour party… but he does represents a constituency (Longford Westmeath) that’s right on the edge of the Labour’s natural Pale… Feverish talk of an unravelling may be extrapolating from a near exceptional example, at least in Labour’s case… Penrose resigned, because he failed to do what his constituents put him into Leinster House to do.. That is defend his parish … Read more

Éirígí Candidates to Stand in Northern Ireland Local Government Elections

The Irish Times reports that the “republican socialist political grouping” éirígí has announced that they will contest the forthcoming local government elections in Northern Ireland.  From the Irish Times report About 140 members from across Ireland attended the conference in the Culturlann centre on Falls Road, where delegates voted in favour of running candidates in the council elections. Éirígí, which was formed in April 2006, has yet to decide in how many of the North’s 26 local government areas it … Read more

Ireland’s colonial legacy: “A parliament collapsed into a government”

Re-Reading the history of Irish Republicanism through the prism of Martin Frampton’s latest book, Legion of the Rearguard I’m struck mostly by its pervasively inchoate character. That’s an impression substantiated not just by the strong historical tradition of dissent, but even by apparently random action of that most constitutionalist of Taoisigh, John A Costello who it appears (according to John Bowman) broke Ireland’s link with the Commonwealth on foot of a question from the Canadian press. Fintan O’Toole is not … Read more

Three ballots on the same day

Ballot Box

So despite Peter Robinson’s concerns that it will confuse voters if the ballot on voting reform, it seems that the AV Referendum will happen on the same day as both the Assembly Elections and the local council elections – 5th May 2011. Following the totally unpredictable SNAFU around local government reform, readers will recall that the plans to condense the current twenty six local authorities down to eleven super councils next year has meant that Councillors in NI have been … Read more

Dual mandate (council/MLA) bill passes Consideration Stage – but what are party plans for next spring?

Dawn Purvis’ private member’s bill got through its Consideration Stage this evening and now moves on to the next stage of its arduous journey into the statute books. Update – you can now read the Hansard transcript or watch the proceedings through BBC Democracy Live. In short the NIA Bill 7/09 Local Government (Disqualification) (Amendment) Bill removes the possibility of people holding a dual mandate to serve as an MLA at Stormont and also sit on their local council. It … Read more

Will you know who you’re voting for in May 2011?

Looks like there could be an(other) opportunity for parties to play candidate/co-option games in the Assembly and local government elections in May 2011. With at least two elections being held on the same day (never mind the strong chance of a voting reform referendum) some politicians may be fighting to retain several different jobs. Now double-jobbing has really only been addressed at an MP/MLA and MP/Council level, but a surprising number of MLAs have so far seemed happy to retain … Read more

Political Innovation 2: The politics of buying things

This is a guest cross-post by Dominic Campbell – originally posted on the Political Innovation site here: Well, you wouldn’t still be reading had I called it the politics of procurement now would you? (no, stop – don’t go!). No-one who engages with government procurement comes away impressed with it. It’s a process that wastes £billions and rewards process over outcomes. Yet we all know that, deep down, it’s a symptom of a political problem. It is a system set … Read more