It's incredibly important, especially at a Council level that you know a bit about where the person that represents stands on certain issues. Listed below are my stances on some aspects of Local Government
As a Council we are tasked with getting the best value for money for you the rate payers. Just to be clear about this – I will not be claiming expenses other than when I am representing the Borough and will, on an annual basis, be publishing my salary on this website.
Following is my Council salary for the year 2012–13. As you can see this year I was paid £11,661 the addition was an ‘acting up’ allowance for 6 months as I chaired the Environment Committee. I intend to go on publishing this information as constituents have a right to transparency regarding what politicians are paid.
Attached is my salary and expenses for 11 months running from May 2011 – April 2012. The figure of £50 was for my attendance on a course regarding financial governance.
I recognise the need for sensitive commercial development and housing which promotes jobs and investment in our community. In Ards and North Down we however have a number of out–of–centre shopping complexes which have, in effect, pulled the heart out of our town centres. Clearly these large businesses provide jobs for local people and this is very much welcomed however this must be balanced now with ensuring that any further commercial development does not damage our town centres any further. It is now too late to ‘roll back’ these decisions therefore what we must ensure is that future development enhances rather than exploits our resources.
We must ensure that we protect our environment and in particular prosecute those who would destroy it by littering or not picking up their dog mess. During my time on Council we have increased resources to tackle this scourge on our streets and beside our schools. I made this a priority when I chaired the Environment Committee ensuring more resources went into catching these offenders. During this term our success rates for prosecutions skyrocketed by over 400% We must continue to work together on this issue with the public providing useful intelligence to our Council Officers on the worst affected areas so we can target resources effectively.
It is important that we look after and sustain our environment for future generations. Our Council area has many natural beauty spots such as Groomsport village and the coastline of Donaghadee. I agree in principal with Planning Policy Statement PS21 in its attempt to strike a balance with our housing needs and the natural environment. We must ensure that these areas of special interest are protected such as the Groomsport Rural Landscape Wedge that runs between Bangor Town and Groomsport Village. I also welcome the enormous progress that our Council have made moving from expensive landfill costs and towards holistic recycling.
Our focus within the Borough must be in creating jobs and developing the three sectors of our economy. We must work in partnership with our local college ensuring that Higher Education courses in particular are meeting the needs of industry. There must be more focus on the digital economy including Fintech and Cybersecurity which are major growth areas in the UK and where demand for jobs is high. We must also encourage entrepreneurship and
We have one of the best education systems in the United Kingdoms and this is down, not least, to our extremely hard working teachers across all the sectors. Our Grammar schools continues to produce some of the best A level results across the UK and our Secondary schools develop incredibly skilled individuals ready for the workplace, but we must continue to make progress on tackling educational underachievement especially in socially deprived areas. This is a complex problem as it involves issues with school culture, governance and both family and pupil aspiration. I remain committed to working in partnership with others to ensure that no child is left behind. We also must ensure that proper provision is made for those with Special Needs and funding needs to be protected in this area.
My party has always been a low rates party and has a sound record in this regard. As a Councillor I will do all I can to ensure as low a financial burden on the rate payers in Ards & North Down as is practical. Over the last number of years we have delivered major capital projects such as Aurora and Blair Mayne Leisure Complex, this has clearly put pressure on the current rates. I believe that we must endeavour to maintain a high ratio of financial input to service delivery in our Council.
I welcomed the Review of Public Administration which reduced both the number of councils to 11 and also the number of Councillors. I would also be in favour of a voluntary coalition government model in Stormont in which parties would have to agree a binding programme of government before they enter a voluntary coalition. Governments could be voted in and voted out of office. Within Council we now need to ensure in the medium to long term we become more efficient and deliver better value for money our constituents within our Borough.
Crime & Social Behaviour
Society needs protected from those who would inflict harm on individuals or destroy property. Sentences for violent crimes must ensure that the defenceless are protected and those who commit serious crimes are punished appropriately. Whilst protecting society we also need to examine the reasons that, especially children, commit crime. Very often, and at an early age, children themselves have been subjected to appalling types of neglect and abuse. We must do more to examine the causes of criminal behaviour in our young people and put in place support for these children so they turn their lives around.
Ards & North Down remains a tourist attraction, especially during the summer months. We must endeavour to grow this industry as it forms an integral part of our regional wealth creation. We must fully utilise our local beauty spots and promote these effectively. As a Council we need to put in place high quality events that attract both ‘local’ and visiting tourists into the borough.
A recent OFMDFM reported that our Borough has the highest proportion of older people than any other Council area in Northern Ireland. This should require us to focus on making our Borough both ‘age friendly’ and ensuring that our elderly population feel protected and valued. I am an ‘Age Champion’ due to my engagement on Council on these issues and will continue to represent the interests of these residents who have already given so much to our society.
Queen’s Parade Development
The land, which forms the bulk of the ‘Queen’s Parade Development’ is currently owned by the Department of Infrastructure. This entire project has frankly dragged on for entirely too long and there are now concerted efforts to try to find the most appropriate developer for this project. This company must have the requisite skills, experience and financial backing to deliver a first class scheme which will rejuvenate our sea front and ensure future viability for our shops.
People have many different reasons for the maintenance of the integral link with the rest of the United Kingdom, some cultural, some historical and some economic. Treasury provides Northern Ireland with a £9 Billion subvention through the Barnett Formula on a yearly basis, this is highly unlikely to be replicated by the Republic of Ireland. Put simply (in economic terms) we would all be significantly poorer with much more expensive health system. Our job as politicians is to make Northern Ireland the best country it can possibly be for everyone. Don’t forget we’re not Brazil…