On 15 April, Sinn Féin launched their manifesto for the upcoming 2019 local government elections at an event in Ballymena. Below are some of the key policies from that manifesto:
Councils must promote social value in the procurement process.
Resource locally based tourism projects, which can help boost the hospitality industry.
Support City Deals in Belfast and the North West.
All councils should have clearly mapped out regeneration plans specific to their area.
Agree a new partnership between Executive Departments and local government to share financial obligations of regeneration more equally.
All councils should pay at least the living wage of £9 per hour.
Every household should enjoy at least 10mbps broadband.
Continue to oppose changes to Sunday opening hours.
An increase in social housing.
The NIHE must review the method of calculating how many new homes are needed each year.
Every development must include a percentage of social and affordable housing.
Rights and Legacy
A citizen’s charter in every council, much like the Belfast City Council 2018 Mayor’s Charter.
An Irish language policy and Irish language officer in every council.
Introduction of the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement.
Campaign for a Unity Referendum in the near future.
Work to increase cross-border cooperation on education, health and the economy.
Lobby for a 2019 referendum to allow Irish citizens outside the Republic of Ireland to vote in Presidential elections.
Click here to read the full manifesto.
Last month, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP, signed the Heads of Terms alongside the Belfast City Regional Deal partners and the NI Civil Service. The deal is expected to see the delivery of more than 20 projects to help create up to 20,000 new and better jobs, with an annual GVA impact of £470 million.
The partners include: The UK Government, Northern Ireland Departments (in the absence of an Executive), Queen’s University, Ulster University and 6 Councils.
A Joint Council Forum and a Programme Board supported by Steering Groups who will develop programmes in each of the Investment Pillars.
As Belfast City Council is expected to act as the lead authority and accountable body, the Council is currently putting the appropriate management structures in place.
Growth sectors targeted will include: Financial, Business and Professional Services; Agri-Food; Digital and Creative Technologies; Advance Manufacturing, Materials and Engineering; Life and Health Sciences; Tourism and; Construction and Materials Handling.
Funding includes £350 million from the UK Government, £100 million from partner councils, £50 million from the two Universities and if re-established, £350 million from the Northern Ireland Executive, totalling £850 million.
Will be enhanced by at least £150 million private sector investment, providing the Belfast Region City Deal with a 10-year £1 billion Programme of Investment.
The 22 proposed projects, which have been agreed in an investment plan are focused on four main Investment Pillars: Infrastructure, Tourism and Regeneration (totaling £450 million), Innovation and Digital (£350 million) and Employability and Skills (£30 million investment in an employability and skills package, including a City Deal Apprenticeship Programme).
Partners will work with the UK Government and NI Civil Service to develop a final City Deal Document; a financial plan; detailed implementation plan, incorporating monitoring and evaluation frameworks; and business cases for all projects.
Work to develop a communication strategy and operating protocol.
Last week a new short film about dementia in Northern Ireland was shown for the first time. Supported by The Social Change Initiative and produced by Erica Starling Productions, ‘Our Lives with Dementia’ looks at the lived experiences of four people and families in Northern Ireland who are living with dementia.
The powerful film looks at diagnosis experiences, the impact that dementia has on families and the different service provision that exists across Northern Ireland for people with dementia.
Over 19,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with dementia. By 2050, it is predicted that the illness will affect up to 60,000 people. It is also estimated that by 2040, dementia will claim more lives than cancer.
With an ageing population and increasing numbers of people living alone, dementia is one of society’s greatest challenges. With access to the right support across Northern Ireland, people can live well with dementia. A new Dementia Care Pathway has been developed but has not yet been implemented.
The film shows a stark contrast between the services that are available for people who are diagnosed with dementia and living in different parts of Northern Ireland.
Compared to the services that some of the families in the film are able to access, Stephen, who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago when he was 57, lives in rural Fermanagh and shares in the film how difficult accessing support can be. “We have no awareness courses, very little help at all…Once you’re actually in the system, you hear nothing. Dementia NI is my whole release valve.”
This was a feeling and view that was reflected and discussed during the Q&A session which followed the special screening at Queen’s Film Theatre.
Chaired by Tara Mills, the panel consisted of Emily Wilson, who is in the film with her husband Jim who has dementia, Bernadine McCrory who is the Director of the Alzheimer’s Society in Northern Ireland and Seamus McErlean from the Health and Social Care Board who is the Social Care Commissioning Lead (Older People and Adults) and Co-chair of the Dementia Strategy Implementation Group.
The audience, which consisted of healthcare professionals, politicians, people living with dementia and organisations who provide support to people and families affected by dementia, joined in on the challenging conversation which focused on the varied service provision, diagnosis stories, and improvements that are needed to help people and families who have been impacted by dementia lead full lives.
While progress has been made, there is still a way to go. Our Lives with Dementia is a touching tribute to those who are living with their diagnosis and it is the hope of the families who are involved that sharing their stories will go some way in helping the wider public understand what it is like to live with a dementia diagnosis.
A full downloadable version of the film can be found here.
The President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Brian McGrath, today met with the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, John Penrose MP, regarding the City Deal for the North West region.
Along with a delegation from the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Brian McGrath emphasised the importance of a City Deal for the North West Region to Minister Penrose and the invaluable opportunities that it could bring and unlock across the region.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP, have both recently stated that the negotiations on the deal are progressing.
A City Deal in the North West would help to fuel the regional economy, update infrastructure and transform opportunities to enable the North West to compete on a global stage.
During the meeting, the President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce made representations of behalf of the business community across the North West, stating that it must be deal that works for everyone and emphasised that the North West Region has a lot to offer in terms of talent and ability to help make the City Deal a success.
Following the meeting, the President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Brian McGrath:
“Today we held a positive meeting with Minister Penrose regarding progress on the City Deal for the North West Region.
“There is now a clear need to create more certainty on a city deal, particularly with the continued paralysis around Brexit.
“The City Deal would unlock opportunities right across the region, providing support and finance for key and innovative projects, much needed infrastructure updates and could transform businesses and the economy as a whole.
“The Chamber will continue to work with Derry City and Strabane District Council and other partners to make the City Deal a reality for the North West Region. I am looking forward to seeing the negotiations around the City Deal conclude positively and quickly.”
Hospitality Ulster has long campaigned for changes to Northern Ireland’s licensing laws on behalf of the hospitality industry. The evidence of the benefit that reforming our licensing laws would bring are obvious and multiple and we have consistently made the case of the economic impacts for Northern Ireland.
That’s why the recent short-sighted Department for Communities consultation to allow the Department the power to designate a limited number of events taking place in Northern Ireland as a ‘Special Event’ is so disappointing.
The Department, having designated an event as a ‘Special Event’, would then have the power to increase the hours for the sale of alcoholic drinks at that event and allow off-sales. Let’s be clear - this is a knee jerk consultation to hastily amend liquor licensing legislation to give increased hours and allow off-sales for alcohol at the British Open this July. It does nothing to address the restrictive legislation that negatively impacts the Hospitality industry and doesn’t even limit the off-sales of products from our local brewers and distillers.
What about the rest of the industry? These changes might benefit the big companies that come here for a short time to run these big events, but it completely ignores the challenges faced by the hospitality industry here, who have lobbied for modernisation of liquor licensing for years. To compound matters, there was a Bill that would deal with most of the issues facing the hospitality industry that has been stalled by the collapse of the Assembly over two years ago.
Hospitality Ulster has sought urgent meetings with the Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Karen Bradley MP, calling on them to intervene and get the wider liquor licensing laws sorted as part of this process once and for all.
If Westminster can legislate on this issue, then the wider liquor licensing laws should be sorted as part of this process once and for all, instead of just giving special status to big event promoters who will be gone as soon as they arrive.
Everybody in Northern Ireland, whether they’re interested in golf or not, wants the Open to be a success. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland as a fantastic tourism destination and the home of the greatest hospitality businesses in the world. But our civil servants should not be bending over backwards to rush through legislation for the Open, whilst ignoring the businesses that are the backbone of our tourism industry. The outcome of this consultation isn’t going to support those businesses.
The British Open may be worth £80million to the Northern Ireland economy as a one off, but our members contribute £1.2billion to the Northern Ireland economy every year. It’s time that our civil servants and politicians recognised the value and importance of our hospitality industry and act to support its sustainability and the growth by introducing legislation for all and not just those who enjoy a round of golf.
On the 2nd May 2019, 462 councillors will be democratically-elected to serve the 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. Councillors are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the local community. Councils deliver a range of roles, responsibilities and services to communities across NI and voting in the 2019 local government elections gives you an opportunity to influence what happens in your local area. More information.
NILGA has launched a campaign to explain the vital role of our 11 councils and to encourage people to vote in the local government elections on Thursday 2 May. Informative, short animation pieces focus on the real-life experiences of four individuals, why they believe that voting in the council elections is important and what they hope to see as a result of using their vote.
The campaign emphasises that voting is accessible for everyone who is eligible and addresses some barriers surrounding the voting process that might have previously discouraged people from exercising their right.
Nisha Tandon OBE, Founder and Director of ArtsEkta
ArtsEkta is a multi-award winning cultural organisation that works to develop intercultural relationships at the heart of the community and is home to the Belfast Mela - the largest celebration of cultural diversity on the island of Ireland.
“Councils are helping to support the integration of ethnic groups into the community and there are a number of important events which Councils support throughout the year.
“However, much more needs to be done to ensure that there is full inclusion and support available.
“This is why it is important for people to vote in the upcoming local government elections on Thursday 2nd May. People should use this as an opportunity to challenge their local Council and Councillors and make their voice heard.
“Especially if it is your first time voting in Northern Ireland, it is important to know that it does not have to be a daunting experience. There are staff on hand to help guide you on the day and they can help to explain the process.”
Young Person Animated Campaign Video, voiced by Chantelle McArdle
Chantelle is 20 years old and she is passionate about young people having their voices heard. She is encouraging other young people to make sure they have their say on 2nd May in the local government elections.
“Councils across Northern Ireland are working to create opportunities and improve the local economy.
“With initiatives such as the Go For It Programme across all areas, Councils are helping to create jobs. They are supporting people to develop and provide training, including youth entrepreneurship.
“As a young person I am increasingly concerned about my future and the opportunities that are available. Local jobs are really important to me and I want to have a say about what is happening in my area.
“I want my voice to be heard and that’s why I am voting in the local government elections on the 2nd May.”
NOW Group Participant Campaign Video, voiced by Conor McCallan
Conor has a learning disability and is voting in the upcoming local government elections to make sure that his voice is heard.
“Councils are working to make towns and cities more accessible and welcoming for everyone. I want to have a say about what happens in my area and that’s why I’m voting in the local government elections on 2nd May.
“Councils in Northern Ireland are also JAM Card friendly and that is really important to me.
“Voting in past may have seemed like a scary process but things have moved on and polling stations are accessible for everyone, with staff there on the day who can help you if you need them to.”
Parent Animated Campaign Video, voiced by Dave Thompson
Dave is a parent of 2 children and is voting in the local government elections to make sure he has his say about what happens in his local area.
“Councils across Northern Ireland provide local parks, playgrounds and public places, as well sports and leisure services.
“These provide recreational and health benefits for families such as mine and that is why I want to have my say about what happens in my local area.
“Councils also run events across local areas throughout the year and host family-orientated events and summer schemes which provide opportunities and activities for both parents and children.
“Like me, if you want to influence what happens in your area, use your vote on the 2nd May.”
The public in Northern Ireland have raised over £580,000 for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal to help people affected by Cyclone Idai since launching on Thursday 21 March.
Cyclone Idai swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe more than a week ago, leaving behind a trail of destruction, and killing more than 961 people. The area affected is approximately 3,000 square km, over three times the size of the Belfast Metropolitan area.
Strong winds and widespread flooding ripped apart roads, bridges, houses, schools and health facilities and submerged vast swathes of agricultural land. Idai is possibly the worst weather-related disaster to ever hit the southern hemisphere.
A total of over £33 million has been raised across the UK, including £4 million from the UK Government through UK Aid Match.
Charlotte King, Senior Community and Legacy Fundraiser at Red Cross NI, one of the DEC charities, said:
“As always, the public in Northern Ireland has been hugely generous, and we are so very grateful for their donations. The full scale of the disaster in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe has yet to become clear but we do know that this is developing into one of the most pressing humanitarian emergencies in the world at the moment.”
“More help is needed. DEC member charities are working closely with national partners to support the rescue and relief effort, delivering clean water, emergency shelter materials and blankets, food such as pulses and maize flour, and urgent health assistance. Stagnant water has nowhere to drain away to, which means there is a very real and very high risk of cholera and malaria.”
“Whilst conditions remain challenging, aid is getting through and DEC members are working hard to reach those who so desperately need help, but we need the support of the people of Northern Ireland. If you can, please go to www.dec.org.uk to give what you can.”
Stay up to date with developments in the affected areas, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts with the DEC on twitter: www.twitter.com/decappeal or on Facebook via www.facebook.com/DisastersEmergencyCommittee
The creation of 75 new permanent jobs has been announced by GLL, the social enterprise responsible for the operation of leisure facilities in Belfast.
GLL manages 14 leisure centres in partnership with Belfast City Council under the ‘Better’ brand.
It is creating the new jobs as part of Council’s ongoing £105m transformation of leisure services in the city.
The jobs will be created across a range of disciplines and will be based in three new build leisure centres in Belfast, which will open in late 2019 and early 2020.
This investment is part of the second stage of Council’s Leisure Transformation Programme (LTP), a decade long programme to upgrade and modernise leisure facilities in Belfast. This stage will see Andersonstown Leisure Centre, Brook Activity Centre and Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre (on the site of the former Robinson Centre) open with new, cutting edge facilities and services.
GLL will also create 100 new casual/seasonal roles which will include a mix of gymnastics coaches, swimming coaches, fitness coaches, lifeguards and summer scheme staff.
The application process for these jobs will begin in April 2019.
Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council said:
“Evidence clearly shows the importance of good and accessible leisure services for both mental and physical health. The creation of 75 jobs by our strategic partner GLL is part and parcel of Council’s transformation of leisure services in Belfast.”
“Our aim is to provide innovative leisure facilities across the city through a significant capital investment programme. In total, we will invest £105 million in seven new facilities, each with its own unique selling point, so that we minimise duplication and ensure balanced, value for money investment. Olympia is the first example of the state-of-the-art standard we are aiming for.
“This supports the ambitions of the Belfast Agenda, the community plan for the city, by improving neighbourhoods, reducing life inequalities, providing fit-for-purpose services and enabling active and healthy citizens.”
Regional Director of GLL in Northern Ireland, Gareth Kirk said:
“As a strategic partner of Belfast City Council, we are committed to contributing to the Belfast Agenda. An important part of that involves getting more people in the city, more active, more often. The creation of these jobs will be really important in helping us to promote better health and wellbeing to more people across the city.”
“Investment in health and wellbeing is a vital component of the development of any modern city. Working closely with Belfast City Council and other key strategic stakeholders we are excited to be a part of the contribution to improved physical and mental health.”
“GLL is hugely committed to its workforce and our people are our greatest asset. Part of that commitment means providing existing staff with the opportunity to develop their skills and pursue rewarding careers with us, with over 50 internal promotions delivered in the last three years.”
“There is a huge range of rewarding careers in GLL and really exciting opportunities for staff to develop and progress.”
Clodagh Rice will take over as Business Correspondent at BBC NI, replacing Julian O’Neill who is now the BBC NI Home Affairs Correspondent.
The European Council is meeting at a special summit on 10 April where Theresa May is expected to request a further extension to the Article 50 process.
The UK Government has agreed to begin preparing the country to take part in the upcoming European elections in case a long extension is required.
The first week of Parliament’s Easter recess, which was due to begin this coming week, has been cancelled.
The Belfast City Council Strategic Policy and Resources Committee have agreed that a City Growth and Innovation Commission be established to integrate and join up major strategic projects facing the city of Belfast for the next 10-20 years. The Commission will be led by the Council’s Chief Executive.
The Census in 2021 will gather information on sexual orientation and armed forces veterans for the first time.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council have published “Connect, Invest, Transform”, a 10 year investment plan proposition document.
Parliament’s Business Committee has recommended that the “Big Four” accountancy firms be broken up to improve the quality of auditing.
The Secretary of State Karen Bradley will answer oral questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday 10 April.
The opening night of Belfast Film Festival takes place on Thursday 11 April.