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.
It is important that we sustain our environment for future generations and this must be done now. Ards North Down has, in particular, 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 needs and the environments. I also welcome the enormous strides that our Council have taken in recycling, it truly leads the way in Northern Ireland Local Government in this regard. We must ensure that we protect our natural environment and in particular prosecute those who would destroy it by littering or dog fouling.
Our focus within the Borough must be in protecting and developing both the manufacturing and service sector. We must work in partnership with our local college ensuring that HE courses in particular are meeting the needs of industry. In the new council we will have further powers to push economic development and the key aspect of this is providing jobs for local people within the Borough.
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 sectors. I believe that our Grammar School system should be maintained in Northern Ireland and not diluted to a fully comprehensive model. It is also crucial that we see targeted funding into the Secondary sector. Work must be done to tackle educational underachievement especially in socially deprived areas. This is a complex problem, which I have worked on for a number of years, as it involves issues with culture, governance and aspiration. Money should be available for schools in areas of specific social need but this should not be cut from oversubscribed Primary Schools.
My party has always been a low rates party and has one of the best records in this regard throughout all of Northern Ireland. 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. It is also crucial that we maintain a high ratio of financial input to service delivery in Ards North Down.
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 and Anti Social Behaviour
Tougher measures need to be taken in order to tackle crime in Northern Ireland. For those convicted, sentences should be given to reflect the seriousness of their crime. In many cases we need clearer sentencing guidelines for judges and in some specific cases mandatory sentences. We also need to work in partnership with other agencies to address anti-social behaviour - I am more than aware of this through 18 years of voluntary work through Safezone. I will continue to do my part both on the ground (at Safezone), at Council and at our Policing and Community Partnership which I currently sit on.
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 take advantage of our local beauty spots, make our Borough tourist friendly and promote for example Golf Tourism – we are the home of the legend that is Rory McIlory! We must also ensure that we promote our towns locally and I will be bringing before Council a range of innovative ways that we can do this more effectively.
According to a recent OFMDFM report our new Borough has the highest proportion of older people than any other Council area in Northern Ireland. This presents challenges for our Borough as we must both protect our elderly and ensure they enjoy a good quality of life in retirement. I'm on the management board of Age North Down & Ards and continue to work with a number of bodies which represent our elderly to ensure that they are represented effectively on Council. I will be pushing in the Policing and Community Safety Partnership for higher clearance rates for crimes against the Elderly and also for tougher sentences for violent crime against our Elderly.
Queen's Parade Development
Queen's Parade Development is currently owned by the Department of Social Development and will transfer back to Ards North Down Borough Council in April 2016 at no cost. The new site will feature a series of new developments, including 72 apartments, eight terrace dwelling houses, a flexible theatre and performance space, new business areas, a multi-storey car park and new restaurants and cafés. This is one of the most pressing issues which has faced Bangor for the last number of years. Hopefully in 2016–17 we will start to see real progress on the issue.
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. The argument has been settled and it is now down to pro Union politicians to convince UK sceptic voters than this is the best place for Northern Ireland to be. In sheer economic terms the Republic of Ireland will never be able to afford us and we currently benefit from a £9 Billion subvention through the Barnett Formula from the UK Treasury. A 2011 survey by the Northern Ireland Life and Times found that 52% of folk who would designate themselves Roman Catholics favoured the current political system over a United Ireland and over 70% of the total populace wants to remain in the Union. 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...