New Belfast City Council committee called ‘undemocratic’ to sit for the first time
A new Belfast City Council (BCC) committee that has been called ‘undemocratic’ by critics has passed its final hurdle and will sit for the first time next month.
The Standards and Affairs Committee was proposed to manage the affairs of the council and tackle long meetings where many motions can be debated, while also working to uphold local authority standards.
However, concerns have been raised by several councilors in recent months about the powers of the new committee, allowing it to “check” motions before they are presented to the full council, and about the need for the committee.
Critics say the committee will stifle the voices of small parties and give larger parties more power to decide what is discussed at the monthly meetings of the 60 councilors.
The new committee will be made up of 20 representatives, with Sinn Fein and DUP having a combined majority of 11 members.
At a meeting of BCC’s Policy and Strategic Resources Committee yesterday morning, councilors were asked to agree to changes to the rules, allocations and other details, before the committee could hold its inaugural meeting in September. .
Alliance adviser Michael Long expressed his party’s opposition to the formation of the committee, calling it “undemocratic”.
“I would like to officially declare our opposition to this committee and we will oppose these proposals on that basis,” he said.
âWe think this is an undemocratic proposal. In particular, we believe that small parties will not be treated fairly and will not have the opportunity to present as much as they could be. We have clearly expressed our point of view on this committee and we will oppose any further steps towards the creation of this committee. “
SDLP council group leader Donal Lyons added: âWe do not see, with the existence of the local government ombudsperson, why duplication is necessary when it comes to standards. “
He said the delay in presenting notices of motions to the council chief executive (14 days) before the full council meeting could cause delays of up to six weeks in responding to something happening in the city. .
He added: “We don’t think the Standards and Affairs Committee is justified in this form and other simpler reforms, which would not have required chairs and committees and other miscellaneous things, were. neglected. “
A proposal was tabled to reject the final changes that would pave the way for the establishment of the Standards and Business Committee, but it was subsequently voted down.
âThe primary functions of the proposed Standards and Business Committee are to promote, support and protect the conduct of advisors on the board; promote a collaborative working relationship between senior managers and members; ensure the probity of all board deliberations; and to review and improve the processes related to presenting business to the board, âaccording to the board documents.
âThe Standards and Business Committee will have the delegated authority to adopt or reject notices of motion. The Lord Mayor will indicate at the Council meeting which Notices of Motions have been considered by the Standards and Business Committee and whether those Notices of Motions have been defeated or adopted. In both cases, only the proponent can speak to the board on the issue.
âThe Standards and Business Committee will refer all notices of motion directly to a standing committee when the matter to which the notice of motion refers is within the purview of that committee. In council, the Lord Mayor will indicate that the notice of motion has been received and referred. There will be no speakers on such notices of motion to council.