Local government is facing the biggest shake up in over a generation. Twenty six are about to become eleven. The amount of work responsibilities the new councils will grow. But which council now, knows how to relate to the needs of its electorate? Which have been giving the rate payer the best value for their money? And the winners are….Winner: Belfast City Council.
The largest by far of all the councils in the current set up, the sheer scale of its operation made it difficult to ignore. But there were many reasons cited both by the readers panel and the judges that made Belfast a clear and obvious winner. Despite the scale, the council has manage to run a tight ship keeping rates steady over much of the last decade whilst avoiding debt and providing international leadership through the Open Cities project and making substantial impacts in infrastructure. There has also been a radical move away from the sometimes openly sectarian warfare in the council chamber that was commonplace even ten years ago.
Commended: Fermanagh District Council.
Obviously on a much smaller scale than Belfast but there are number of reasons why this council caught the attention of readers, the panel and the judges. There’s been substantial council led development of tourism facilities, with Enniskillen playing host to a number of international events. Over the last twenty years the council has seedfunded outward looking community groups in outlining areas like Clabby, a small rural district near Fivemiletown. And generally it was felt that despite the breakdown community relations through the Troubles, the council had found an older civility that allowed them to get things done.
Commended: Down District Council.
Down had several vocal supporters amongst the Slugger readership. After some severe criticism of the way resort facilities at Newcastle had been alllowed to decay and decline the council has put substantial resources into its renovation and renewal. In =Downpatrick it also plays host one of the few, if perhaps the only genuinely cross community St Patrick’s Day Festival.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty