The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) Annual Conference, Exhibition & Gala Awards Dinner held today (12th October 2017) at La Mon Hotel, Castlereagh, sent a positive picture of local solutions to the political, fiscal, and legislative issues affecting Northern Ireland.
NILGA’s Annual Flagship Conference emphasised an outward looking and confident region, with councils confirming the many key roles they play in sustaining the community, the economy, the environment and social cohesion in Northern Ireland.
Councils invest £1 billion per annum in our local communities – an important 6% of the public purse – but, as NILGA asserts, better local democracy and high quality public services can only prosper where councils can unlock the enterprise, sense of place and pride so prevalent in our cities, towns and villages – all of which collectively form the future economic drivers for Northern Ireland.
Alderman Arnold Hatch, NILGA President, said:
“We have a dynamic form of government here in Northern Ireland. All Councils have taken the new, but somewhat limited powers offered to them as part of the reform programme and delivered. The conference today has sent out a clear message: we can truly advance the governance and economy of Northern Ireland if we empower and resource councils through further practical devolution to them, and re-deploy resources also to local government level.”
All 11 councils are ambitious, locally focussed, and are developing the sustainability and well-being of every community in Northern Ireland through local development, growth and community plans. Each is offering clear evidence and solutions for investing in infrastructure like housing, roads, broadband, public services and small businesses. Speakers from South Africa, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland all spoke with one message – stop holding yourselves back. You have the tools – local people and global best practice – create a new devolution package for local government to fully enable the councils and help them deliver more.”
It is time that councils were considered not just the backbone of the community in terms of essential public services and social cohesion, but also a formal and substantial part of a new Northern Ireland, where local people and local government is working in a new framework of place based decision making.”
“We need to embrace the momentum, in strengthening democracy and the economy in Northern Ireland. This event opened the eyes and ears of the world, and dozens of exhibitors will invest in NILGA’s innovative strategic work – delivered through 11 enthusiastic councils who are proud to be investing in our constituents at every level, constituents we are proud to serve.”
Stephen Wightman, Head of Business Solutions Development & Compliance, Invest NI said:
“The engagement of local councils and economic development partners at this year’s conference was most encouraging. Invest NI will continue to forge deeper connections within this network to ensure that new businesses know where to access the appropriate support to ensure that, as they grow, businesses can seamlessly migrate between delivery partners.”