The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) holds its Flagship Conference, Exhibition & Gala Awards Event on 11th October in Armagh.
Chaired by Mark Carruthers and sponsored by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE), RiverRidge and Invest Northern Ireland, the “Building Sustainable Communities, delivering a Better Northern Ireland for Everyone” event engages policy and investment makers and local communities to assess and plan the discuss the key roles councils play in shaping and driving the economy as well as being the hub of public all services for local people and places in NI.
The event is staged with the complex backdrop of no Legislative Assembly, Brexit and local council elections set for next May. It therefore represents for NILGA and its member councils an opportunity to set the tone of what’s to come in terms of public service changes, challenges and the transformation needed to make Northern Ireland sustainable.
Ambitious councils and local communities are increasingly at the forefront of the enterprise, health, regeneration and investment landscape of Northern Ireland. Councils invest over £1 billion per annum in our local communities which amounts to an important but modest 4% of the £21 billion p.a. public purse. However, as NILGA asserts, better local democracy and high-quality public services can only prosper when council’s co-ordinate further investment, through community plans and similar strategic shifts, and see greater devolution within Northern Ireland to local authorities and local people.
Derek McCallan, NILGA Chief Executive, said:
“Public services need a more local focus and more community-based investment built on places and people – not institutions. Councils are ambitious, and locality driven. They have some powers enabling them to be the hub of the economy and the community. Yet, their investment capacity is limited, just as their direct service role is compared to anywhere else on these islands. Other, better resourced, larger bodies need to get on board and ensure NI has a distinct and viable economy which draws out and sustains local entrepreneurship across communities which have so much talent and innovation to offer, yet often are held back, have limited means or emigrate. All those tides must be turned.”
Councillor Dermot Curran, NILGA’s President, talked of Northern Ireland being at a turning point:
“Councils can unlock this talent and cement better social cohesion, but clearly need the resources to do the job. This can happen if, like in all other parts of the UK and Ireland, and in all other forward thinking, modern democracies, we put in place devolution within Northern Ireland. If we don’t, we will continue to export our incredible talent and become economically uncompetitive. If we do, we will have a sustainable future for all our communities”.
“Strengthening democracy and good governance can be enabled not just by a restored Legislative Assembly and Executive but, also, by rewiring how and where our £21 billion annual budget is spent.
“Our Conference is a learning and delivery event which opens the door to show how political and practical partnerships can connect directly with local people, local need and local government. These are the keys to unlocking community wealth, and a sustainable future for our entrepreneurs who pay our taxes and for our most vulnerable and deserving citizens.”