Anna Lo MLA said: “I am glad to finally see this Bill appear in the Assembly after many delays. The timescale before the shadow council elections is tight but it is workable if there is co-operation to work in the best interest of local government, not narrow party political interest.
“However, this bill must include an agreed flag policy for the new super councils. These new councils are there to deliver better public services; they shouldn’t be spending their first few meetings debating how often the Union Flag is flown from their headquarters.
“Designated days is the compromise proposal which recognises Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the UK, while allowing the Union Flag to be flown with respect and dignity. It should be the policy for all the new Councils.
“We welcome the inclusion of a proportional method for the allocations of civic posts. We must avoid a repeat of the situation where proportionality was blatantly ignored by several Councils when making nominations to Statutory Transition Committees.
“However, the d’Hondt method which is outlined in the legislation, has its own problems; it is inherently inflexible, favours bigger parties and may well unintentionally institutionalise one community dominance in certain areas. The Alliance Party’s preference, where local agreement cannot be reached would be for the use of a different mechanism, such as Sainte-Lague or Single Transferable Vote.
“I strongly welcome the commitment in the Bill to a statutory Code of Conduct for Councillors, something I am sure many wish we had in the not so recent past. Currently, unlike for MLAs, there is no-one a Councillor can be referred to if they do not act as one would expect. I am glad to see this anomaly being changed by this legislation.
“It must cover Councillors’behaviour both inside and outside their Council Chamber. It must also seek to encourage civic leadership so that all Councillors will work together in the best interest of their Council and ratepayers.”