Alderman Kennedy reflects on busy year in office

OUTGOING Ballymoney Mayor Bill Kennedy - now named an Alderman - has given a comprehensive review of his time in office.

Speaking at Riada House last Wednesday night as he handed over the reins of power to the DUP’s Ian Stevenson, Alderman Kennedy outlined details of a busy year.

He said: “May I first of all congratulate each of the former members present this evening upon their re-election to the new Council. “It would be remiss of me to let this meeting pass without expressing thanks, on your behalf as well as my own, to those members who either did not offer themselves to the electorate this time or who were unsuccessful in their efforts.

“The contribution of Malachy McCamphill, James Simpson and Audrey Patterson to the well-being of our community is gratefully acknowledged by those of us who worked with them. The contribution of Councillor Daithí McKay, who resigned his seat during the term to be replaced by Councillor Cathal McLaughlin, is also acknowledged.

“To the newly elected members, Jason Atkinson, William Blair and Iain McAfee, I would say, you have been chosen by your fellow citizens in the respective electoral areas to be representatives on this Council for the next four years.

“The year saw the passing of two people closely associated with the work of this Council. It was with sadness that we learned of the sudden and untimely death of Jonny Blair, our Building Control Officer.

“Douglas Borough Councillor and Twinning Committee member, Dorothy Pitts, who devoted much of her time to developing the link between our two boroughs will also be sadly missed.

“We record our appreciation of their service, in different ways, to the Ballymoney community.

“* Charity Fundraising - I want to express thanks to all those who supported my charity fundraising events during the year, including the volunteers from the local groups concerned. This enabled me to raise over £5000.

“Macmillan Cancer, The Ballymoney Hospice Support Group and The Community Rescue Service benefitted from the proceeds of the charity events,.

“Local resident, Nessie Blair, who was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of her services to Healthcare and Respiratory Services in Northern Ireland.

Retirements - Leisure Centre staff Robert Downey and Linda McCluggage and Jack Taylor from the refuse collection team retired having worked for the Council for 29, 26 and 22 years respectively..

“* Racing Legend Remembered - Friday 25th March was a proud, but highly emotional day for the Dunlop family as Brother Jim and Son Michael unveiled the statue of Robert. The statue now has pride of place in the memorial garden, complementing the granite plaques provided by council which record Robert’s Achievements.

“I pay tribute to the family and the sculpture committee, headed by Liam Beckett, for their magnificent achievement in raising the funds to commission the statue. This is a fitting tribute to a very remarkable citizen.

“* Town Centre Regeneration - Our efforts towards development of the town centre received a major boost with the announcement yesterday by the Heritage Lottery Fund of a first round pass for our funding application.

“This brings a development grant of £50,000 to Ballymoney Regeneration Company to fully develop plans to secure funding of £1.34M, through the Heritage Lottery Funds Townscape Heritage Initiative.

“This funding will deliver a five-year restoration and regeneration programme within the conservation area. Led by Ballymoney Regeneration Company, working in partnership with the Council, Planning Service, Environment Agency and Housing Executive the proposed Ballymoney THI will preserve and enhance the special townscape character of our historic town centre.

“It is envisaged that the scheme will be realised early in the new Council term.

“* Ulster in Bloom 2010 - There was more positive news for the town when Ballymoney achieved a very credible joint third placing in the ‘town’ category of the Translink Ulster in Bloom Competition.

“* Village Renewal - Council has committed match funding to support five rural villages to develop village action plans approved under the village renewal measure of the Rural Development Programme.

“* Challenging times - We faced challenging times during the past year. A difficult economic climate for both businesses and the local communities, coupled with adverse weather conditions, including the loss of essential electricity and water supplies caused hardship to many of our citizens.

“It is difficult for Council to be prudent with setting rates and keeping services going in the current climate.

“However during my term of office, just ended, we made further progress in the development of services and facilities.

“* Investing in Community facilities - We faced rising costs for major increases in fuel, energy and waste disposal tax, coupled with a drop in income from services and central government grant. Despite this the Council managed, in setting the rates for this year, to protect and retain essential services and also make provision for new community schemes.

“It is pleasing to report that the essential work to replace the flood damaged path at Riverside Park, Ballymoney has been completed.

“Contracts to the value of £878,475 to provide new community halls for Balnamore and Stranocum; together with a major renovation of the Ballybogey community hall have been let. All three new community buildings are expected to be ready for use by the end of this year 2011.

“* Cloughmills Incredible Edible Project - The Borough Services Directorate through the Community Safety Partnership assisted in the development, funding and delivery of the Incredible Edible Cloughmills project.

“The original aim of the project was to address anti-social behaviour through a community engagement programme with a focus on local food production and consumption. The project emphasising the health and environmental benefits of growing food within the community.

“* Sporting Achievement - In this borough we are fortunate to have many talented individuals and clubs who have achieved success at provincial, national and international level. They bring credit to themselves and their borough and we are proud of them.

“The Officers handle enquiries about energy efficiency and home safety, give talks to local community groups and make referrals to grant schemes.

“Since late 2007 over 851 home safety inspections have been completed in the Ballymoney area with approximately £65,000 of equipment distributed and fitted.

“Since 2006, approximately £260,000 of insulation and heating measures have been installed through the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme. Another 200 homes have been referred to Warm Homes Scheme.

“* Ballymoney Rethinks Waste - Waste Management continues to engage our attention. During the course of the year significant funding was obtained under the DoE’s Rethink Waste Programme 2010 for both the Council itself and to assist the Cloughmills Action Team.

“The funding obtained contributed to the continuing imperative that Council reduce the amount of waste it disposes off by landfill and improve its recycling rate year on year. Both of these targets were again achieved in the past year.

“* Improvement, Collaboration & Efficiency - The Development of the ICE “Case of Change” is now complete. Now Local Government, during this period of challenging economic constraints, is faced with the challenge of meeting citizen expectations to deliver continually improving, value for money services.

“Designed and led by local government through NILGA and SOLACE the ICE programme presents opportunities for councils to meet these expectations.

“* Cluster Collaboration - Following consideration of key potential collaboration opportunities the Causeway Council Transition Committee has agreed a framework for collaboration and terms of reference. The Change Manager post, funded by the cluster councils, is progressing the collaboration agenda.

“* Local Government Reform - Policy proposals to reorganise local government, is again engaging the attention of the newly reconstituted assembly Executive.

“* The proposals are wide ranging and their impact on councils and councillors will be profound. They include proposals on governance arrangements and an ethical standards regime and will, if implemented, result in new methods of taking decisions in councils.

“A new council led community planning programme and additional powers to councils, together with a new service delivery and performance improvement framework is also proposed.

“* Thanks - Success in any organisation depends primarily on the people who run it. I thank my fellow Members, my Chaplain, Rev. Frances Bach, the Chief Executive, Officers and all staff for their support and their service.

“I also thank the local press, journalists and photographers, who attend our meetings and events and play a vital role in communicating to our citizens and to the wider community covered by their publications,” said Alderman Kennedy.