Snow Patrol

January 22, 2010

Apologies for the shocking pun in the title.

As part of my weekly canvassing/ leafletting schedule tomorrow morning Conall McDevitt MLA and I will be doing a leaflet drop in the Ardmore/ Ashton area of South Belfast.

Over Christmas I received a number of complaints from people across South Belfast about the lack of salt bins in the area and salt bins which had been empty for weeks. As a result of this Conall and I were out and about in South Belfast on a very cold and snowy Saturday morning a few weeks back to see what the situation was on the ground.

We found that very large areas in and around Finaghy didn’t even have a salt bin, let alone an empty one, so we are lobbying both the Roads Service and the Minister for Regional Development to ensure that areas which need them get a salt box and those areas that have them are fully stocked with salt.

Have a look at our flyer Ardmore/ Ashton Snow Flyer



January 22, 2010

SDLP South Belfast Councillor Niall Kelly has welcomed the decision today (Friday 22nd January) by Belfast City Council’s Policy & Resources committee to agree, in principle, to the live streaming and archiving of Council meetings.

Speaking after the committee meeting Cllr. Kelly said, “I am very happy that the Policy & Resources committee has backed my call to stream council meetings online. Belfast City Council has a reputation as a progressive Council, which has led the way in taking informed, transparent decisions which provide the public with as much information as possible and today’s decision has shown this.

“I am a firm believer that new technologies should be embraced and that Belfast City Council should take every step to ensure that we are open, transparent and accountable. As the first Council in the North of Ireland to agree to go ahead with live streaming Belfast is showing real leadership and a desire to engage with it’s citizens. I am hopeful that in 2011 this system will be up and running and that it will be the benchmark for transparency and accountability in local government.”

Just how open should local government be?

January 20, 2010

Back on 1st December 2009 I had submitted a notice of motion to Belfast City Council asking the Council to investigate the possibility of streaming Council meetings online, and archiving older meetings. The text of the motion was:

“This Council recognises that there is a need to encourage wider interest among the public, and particularly young people, in the affairs of the Council.

One means of creating enhanced awareness and participation would be to follow the lead set by the Northern Ireland Assembly and authorise the live streaming and archiving of Council proceedings on the Internet.

To this end, the Council directs that the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee give consideration to this matter in terms of constraints, benefits and costs with a view to bringing a recommendation to the Council at an early date.”

This Friday at the Policy & Resources committee the motion will be discussed and a decision taken as to whether we proceed with the motion or abandon it. Unsurprisingly, as I was the one who submitted the motion, I am in favour of increasing the level of accountability in the Council. Belfast City Council administers an annual budget of just under £150m. This is not out money- we merely administer it on behalf of Belfast ratepayers. It is our duty to ensure that the best use possible is made of this money and that all decisions are made in an open, accountable and transparent manner.

Council minutes, as far back as 1997, are available online for anyone to view and members of the public are allowed to attend meetings of the full Council to watch proceedings. It came as a bit of a shock to me last week when I heard that Council minutes were not available online and could only be viewed at Castlereagh Council.

I firmly believe that we should make every effort, and using all forms of technology available, to ensure that out actions are totally transparent and that we do what we can to make accountability easily accessible.

For an idea of the system I favour for Belfast City Council check out Dublin City Council.

Cost is not a legitimate excuse to prevent accountability.

The First Post

December 23, 2009

This is the first post from my new blog which I’ve given the most original name ever – My good friends Cllr. Matthew McDermott and Justin McCamphill came up with very good names for their blogs but I don’t have their creativity.

This blog is a follow up to my somewhat controversial blog, The Belfast Stoop, from 2007 and will chronicle political goings on in the island of Ireland, but with a lot more focus on the goings on in South Belfast. It was going to be my New Years Resolution to start this blog in January but I’ve decided to start a bit earlier in a hope that this is a New Years Resolution which lasts beyond February.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I hope I do in writing it.