Partnership crucial to address future local government challenges
As I reflect on my year as President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), I am mindful of the challenges before our local councils at this moment in time, with the coronavirus crisis highlighting the financial fragility of Northern Ireland’s local government sector. However, I have seen first-hand over the past year the talent and potential within our local councils.
During the year, I’ve had the privilege of meeting Ministers and other senior parliamentarians in Belfast and London. I’ve attended and shared in celebrations at the Irish Open and I launched the “Civility in Public Life” campaign with LGA colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales, to highlight the increasing level of public intimidation targeted at elected members and the impact this is having on the democratic processes.
For me, the highlight of every year in NILGA is being able to celebrate the huge achievements of our community representatives at the Translink Ulster in Bloom and RHS Britain in Bloom events. Although Covid-19 has had a major impact in our communities, this important work still continues within our cities, towns, and villages to make them look fabulous.
This year we also welcomed the restoration of the Executive and I was very pleased to be able to welcome the two Junior Ministers and over 180 delegates to the Local Government Conference in Belfast along with over 200 council elected members, officers and partners from all 11 councils to the 2020 Local Government Awards.
This year has been a huge challenge for all our Councils’ and our communities due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This has brought sharp focus amongst political parties to work together for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland, work that needs to continue.
Through this crisis, local government’s community focus and response has been profound. As NILGA President, I would again like to thank each and every elected member and council officer for playing their part in selflessly supporting our communities and helping local people.
As we approach the second half of the Council financial year it will be more important than ever that we work together to lobby the Executive to ensure we receive the financial support to continue to deliver front line services during this emergency. I want to commend the continuing work of our Chief Executives in ensuring Local Government is being heard through the work of SOLACE.
This position has enabled me to shine a light on both community and charitable works right across Northern Ireland. I was privileged to have been able to support the excellent work of the NI Air Ambulance and would encourage members to continue to support this worthwhile charity.
As I hand over the NILGA Presidency, I will continue to work across the political spectrum through NILGA to ensure the needs of Local Government are met and to ensure the people of Northern Ireland receive the services they deserve.