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.
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.
Local development plan functions
Development control and enforcement
Off street parking (except Park and Ride)
Urban regeneration and community development
Functions associated with physical development (e.g. environmental improvement
Area based regeneration (such as Neighbourhood Renewal)
Some community development programmes for the voluntary and community sectors
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)
Investing for Women
Neighbourhood Renewal funding relating to enterprises initiatives
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
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
Armagh County Museum;
Local water recreational facilities;
Local sports (greater involvement of local government in local sports decisions);
Slugger commentators-who would you pick to deal with these issues? What do you think makes a good councillor?
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs