From 4 Down Councillors;

Cllr Cadogan Enright
Cllr Patrick Clarke
Cllr Terry Andrews
Cllr Micky Coogan (Current Chair of Down Council)

Dear Mr McCallan,

We are writing to seek your assistance in a long-running issue in Down Council.

We represent every electoral area in Down District and are the joint-second largest technical group on our council. But we are being excluded by council rules, under pressure from the largest local party, from representation at NILGA. We see that point 3 of NILGA’s constitution says that ‘in selecting its representatives each council shall ensure that its representation on the Association broadly reflects the party political pattern on the council.’

We have raised this provision formally in council prior at two  Council AGMs, but have been over-ruled in council and have been refused representation though the domination of one party, and the capitulation of council management to the influence of that party.

As a result of the above, we are making a formal and urgent complaint to NILGA on this issue, as we wish to have this resolved before the next AGM.

There are a number of other related serious governance problems militating against democratic representation on this council that we summarise below;

Council management claim to have legal advice suggesting that Technical Groups can only be formed following an election. They are not prepared to circulate this legal advice, so it is difficult to challenge. However there are a number of irregular issues arising from this approach too numerous to list here.

· The notion that we can only form a technical group after an election also appears to be at odds with the way in which the NILGA constitution is written

· At our AGM’s we are excluded as a technical group for the purposes of D’Hondt on all selections (not just for NILGA), however once the D’Hondt process starts to pick up individual councillors, the D’Hondt process ceases, and is re-initiated from the start, which gives the biggest party a disproportionate allocation, the bulk of which numerically should have fallen to our Group

· There are also vigorous attempts to keep us off non-D’Hondt committees, up to an including cancelling these committees if there appears to be a danger that we will be represented (an example this month – Newcastle Leisure Centre meeting)

· Management appear to believe they may competently concede the cancellation of such meetings under pressure from the largest party. We believe that management can only be instructed by Council as a whole, and not one party.

  • In a similar manner, we were excluded last year from a ‘group leaders meeting’ to decide the fate of new Downpatricks Leisure centre – the biggest investment in this arena and affecting the whole district

· There are governance issues surrounding the holding of Group Leaders Meetings, which appear to operate without an agreed modus operandi. It is our belief that Management should be highlighting governance issue surrounding these meetings and that there needs to be proportionality in any of the major decisions made by this ad-hoc group.

We would welcome NILGA’s urgent intervention in this matter, as we have an upcoming AGM, and do not want to pass another year being inadequately represented on Council committees, and in council appointments to other bodies dealing with a wide variety of issues important to our constituents like policing, the environment, cross-boarder co-operation, rural funding and economic development.

Yours etc,

Cllr Cadogan Enright, Cllr Patrick Clarke, Cllr Terry Andrews, Cllr Micky Coogan