Slugger Awards 2008: Local Council

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.

  • Mark McGregor

    Absolutely disagree with this one. Belfast appears like a series of fiefdoms with only it’s centralised extravagance that doesn’t truly engage or benefit the majority holding it together.

  • bollox to belfast

    another disagreement with Belfast.

    For size and scale compared to others what have they done – currently big billboards around place but they all publicise either Queen’s funded library or central govt funded infrastructure projects.

    example of poor effort is the laughable miniscule funding they put towards belfast festival ….

    don’t even mention that bastardisation of a logo… did nobody in the council do due diligence and ask to see other works before they were ripped off and design company ran off pissing their pants at the gulible provincial peusdo big city yokels

    me thinks a fix……recount please on this category…

  • The Raven

    Would you expect any different? There were so few to pick from IIRC, and – yes I am going to say this – the world ends at Sprucefield and Glengormley.

    Would any truly rural council have had a chance in here? I doubt it. But what do we expect from a region where the darned department tasked with rural development has its headquarters based in the urban centre….?

  • Mick Fealty


    These are great points, and well argued. It was argued well by Mark in the reader’s panel. As such it was put forcefully by the chair, but in many respects it would have been an obvious omission had we given it to Fermanagh say, who from the conversations on Slugger would also have been a worthy winner.

    All of this will listened to with great attention, and we’ll see if we can find some realistic means to act upon it next year.