Armstrong: Openness and transparency at Councils must transcend pandemic

The Alliance Party is pushing to ensure local government remains fully open and transparent as the covid-19 pandemic continues, as the party backs plans for Councils to meet remotely.

Chief Whip and Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA, said it was important at this uncertain time that good governance was able to be maintained, along with ensuring the public had full access to the local decision making process.

She added: “At the Assembly measures have already been put in place to ensure committee meetings and plenary sessions can continue, whilst adhering to strict social distancing rules. We must ensure the same good practice is put in place for local government.

“That’s why at Committee today I backed plans for amendments to be made the 2014 Local Government Act, opening up the possibility for Council meetings to take place remotely. The rule change will apply to all Councils and all Council meetings, including committee or sub-committee meetings, and will now allow Councils to go ahead and set up the technology needed to allow meetings to get back up and running quickly.

“But we can’t stop there. As we come to terms with how the new normal will be when we finally start to emerge from lockdown, that must also include how the public will have full access to Council decisions. Now is not the time to take a backward step, returning to a behind closed doors process, but rather looking to web casting and other technologies available, enabling the public to be able to login to watch and hear proceedings.

“Alliance has continually fought for greater openness and transparency at all levels of government and we will continue to push now, ensuring no decision goes unscrutinised.”

The new legislation will become law from May 1.