Alliance disappointment as calls for Castlereagh Council Committees to be held in public is rejected

Alliance Councillors Michael Long and Vasundhara Kamble have hit out at Unionists in Castlereagh who failed to support their motion calling for the Council’s main committee meetings to be held in public.

Debated last night, the motion aimed to increase openness and transparency for local ratepayers by bringing the bulk of Council decisions out from behind closed doors. Confidential staffing or commercially sensitive matters would continue to be held in committee

It was the latest attempt by Alliance to open the local authority up to further public scrutiny, having previously called for all Council meetings to be recorded and successfully secured the publication of minutes online.

Councillor Long said: “Alliance has been at the forefront of pushing for increased openness and transparency in Castlereagh Council since I joined it over a decade ago. We are committed to letting local ratepayers better understand what decisions are made and how they come about.

“In that time, we have persuaded others to accept our wish to see Councillor allowances and minutes published on the Council’s website and in the past year we have asked for main Council meetings to be recorded, but unfortunately Unionist Councillors blocked this. Their excuse of costs seemed rather weak given that we were able to cite a Council in England where the recording devices cost £160. Thankfully, thanks to my colleagues at the Assembly, the proceedings at the new super-councils will be recorded despite of DUP opposition there.

“For us opening up Committee meetings to the public is the obvious next step as we seek to increase openness and transparency which will be increasingly important as planning powers are transferred to the new Councils and we are disappointed that not all Councillors could support our motion. In England in 2012, the Local Authorities Regulations saw Council meetings being made more open to the public and so I hope that we can follow the positive example set there.”

Councillor Kamble added: “One of the things which impressed me most about Alliance in Castlereagh was their commitment to making the local Council more accountable to ratepayers and so I am delighted that we continually pushing to allow ratepayers become more actively engaged in the democratic process.”

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