Northern Ireland news

Alliance calls for greater council transparency

Naomi Long said people have the right to know about the decisions councillors make. Picture by Hugh Russell.

ALLIANCE will contest the forthcoming council elections on a platform of greater local government transparency, increased regeneration powers and a bid to make all local authorities carbon neutral.

Unveiling the party's manifesto for the poll in a fortnight's time, leader Naomi Long was critical of the resistance, especially from unionist dominated councils, to allowing meetings to be broadcast and recorded in either video or audio format.

"The people who elect you have the right to know about the decisions you make for their community," she said.

Alliance would also like to see councillors' expenses forms, declarations of interest and attendance records made public.

The manifesto notes that "investing in transparency" may involve initial costs but it would help ensure ratepayers' money is "spent responsibly".

 

Having stressed that the manifesto focused on matters for which local government has responsibility, Mrs Long said Brexit was a "big issue" and that Alliance was advocating a so-called people's vote.

"People are frustrated that they are not getting their voices heard by any other means," she said, arguing that Northern Ireland needed an "escape route" from the "circular debate" around Brexit.

"The only way to do that is through a people's vote and allowing people to make an informed choice which they were not able to make in the past - not because they were foolish or stupid, but because the information was not there," she said.

Alliance is also keen to end what it terms a "sectarian carve-up" between the DUP and Sinn Féin councillors.

Mrs Long said her party wanted to "break the cycle" of orange and green politics, and accordingly its manifesto includes a section on promoting a shared future, highlighting the need for integration rather than "division and separation".

The party, which is running 84 candidates, hopes to make great in roads west of the Bann, where it has no local representatives.

The leader described its predicament as a "chicken and egg situation", where voters chose not to support Alliance because it had no representation on their council.

"But if people don't vote Alliance we'll never break that cycle," she said

Other areas covered in the manifesto include the protection of green spaces, an increase in the number of 20 mph speed limits, and a call for the enhancement regeneration powers for councils.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists last night appeared to distance themselves from a local government election leaflet distributed in east Belfast which claims Alliance councillors had a record of "voting with the Provisional IRA's political wing".

The leaflet was issued by UUP council candidates Jim Rodgers and Peter Johnston.

It said Alliance councillors, which includes the leader's husband Michael Long, are "closely aligned to Sinn Féin".

Mrs Long has written to her Ulster Unionist counterpart Robin Swann saying the leaflet is not factually correct.

The UUP said it was "not a central UUP message".

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