Monday, April 11, 2005

The Land of Fairy Stories

I read Minister Ian Pearson's letter with some amusement and notice he begins by talking about myths. He may mistakenly think this is the land of myths and legends. But here he is delving into the land of fairy stories.

The Ministers statement usefully highlights a number of important issues. On a positive note he clearly leaves open the question of how any new water rate might be paid, and interestingly does not rule out the possibility of metering which is something we have been arguing for.

His press release has been very cleverly constructed by his civil servants. But questions still have to be answered for example, why has the water and sewerage infrastructure in North Down if not Northern Ireland been left, some say for 30 years, in such a poor state that raw sewage appears on the coastal path in Bangor West and in areas in Ballyholme when there is heavy rain. Why and only when I brought it to the attention of the Minister John Spellar that raw sewage was being pumped into the sea at Briggs Rock and asked him to come and see for himself - a direct quote from his letter of 8th November 2004 " I do not consider that a sailing trip to Briggs Rock area is necessary to convince me that the present situation is unsatisfactory." He uses the word " unsatisfactory" for filthy, raw sewage pouring onto one of our beaches. Why are the Water Service now having to spend such large amounts upgrading our systems in Northern Ireland, there must be an awful lot of fixing to be carried out. Even the distribution of money to these new schemes appears to be unfair towards North Down, for example to name but 2 out of 14 schemes Armagh is receiving some £40 million, South Belfast £80million and Bangor £510,000, to rub salt into the wound it is planned to be a Public Private Partnership scheme. Such schemes are vulnerable to delays.

The figures he quotes on comparative figures between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK beg a number of questions e.g. comparative levels of need and the balance between rates and central funding. There is also the question of the extent to which the Barnett formula used to allocate exchequer funds to Northern Ireland adequately reflects all of our needs. These are all issues to which must be addressed, to ensure that we have a fair and equitable system.

Once again we have the 'big stick' method from the Minister, if we don't pay a water tax quote "there will be substantial reductions in the funding that could be provided for public services, such as health and education, than we could afford if we had water charges". The argument for reductions in education and health are for another day. But I would state that such thoughts of reduction of finances to health and education must never become a reality.

Carnalea Halt - leads the way

Carnalea Residents Association was formed almost one year ago and since that time they have been busy addressing issues to improve the surrounding area. One of their main schemes has been the question - how to improve our railway station?
They contact me and with a very willing band under the auspices of the Chairperson Mrs Elizabeth Porter we contacted Translink. Mr Philip Blair from Translink, was immediately impressed with the proposed scheme and the idea of a joint venture with regard to the station. Several meetings have taken place and each time the enthusiasm for the scheme grows.

Elizabeth said "Translink have promised new lighting, better signage, repointing of the station walls and eventually new and better shelters. Residents are also keen to develop the garden areas adjacent to the platforms so that they are more attractive and colourful and to encourage wildlife. We already have birds such as Sparrowhawks, Robins, Blackcaps and Long-Tailed Tits using the station area for feeding and nesting and we would like to encourage this and make the area more attractive for everyone who uses it and lives nearby. We have a number of keen gardeners in our Association and we are looking forward to working with Translink to improve the environment here. We are grateful to Councillor Marion Smith for her help and encouragement with this project.

Commenting on the in initiative Translink's Philip Blair, Route Manager for the Bangor line said "It is marvelous to have such enthusiasm from the community. We look forward to working with the residents in the refurbishment of the Halt. In the next week or so, Translink will paint, re-point and re-bed the planting areas. Following this we will work closely with the residents supplying the materials and shrubbery needed to design and maintain the area. We are also delighted with the involvement of the Institute and local school in upgrading the underpass.
We have had several productive meetings with the group and feel certain that our rail passengers and the locals will benefit from this initiative. In fact they may be eligible to enter our new "Community" category of the Translink Ulster in Bloom competition. If any other groups are interested in getting involved in North Down please contact Bangor Rail and Bus Centre or 02891271143"

I am positive that this scheme highlights just how much can be achieved when it is a joint community venture. The North Down & Ards Institute have been enthusiastic to our query to the idea of repainting the underpass making it much brighter and more people friendly as well the lighting will be upgraded. I am also delighted that the local primary school will also take part in this painting scheme and have a few other ideas on this subject. Translink has been very positive and encouraging towards every suggestion put forward and a real pleasure to work with. Along with the residents, the Institute, the local Primary School, primarily Translink, and myself we hope to make Carnalea Halt the best station on the line between Belfast and Bangor or even Northern Ireland!


Cllr Marion Smith B.A.

North Down Borough Council

Elected: March 1995 in a bye-election for Bangor West as an Ulster Unionist Councillor.
Fought and won local elections – 1997,2001 and 2005.
Deputy Mayor 1997/98
Mayor 1999/2000
I play a prominent and very active role through the following committees:
CHAIR: Policy Committee – this is one of the 5 major committees within Council
Tourism Task Force
Planning & Public Service Liaison
Leisure, Tourism and Community Development
Amenities & Public Services
Arts Advisory Panel
North Down Sports Advisory Council
Northern Ireland Local Government Association
Finance Sub Committee
Audit Committee
Economic Sub Committee
North Down Neighbourhood Partnership Board
Kilcooley Neighbourhood Partnership Board
Chaired: Arts Advisory Panel
Education Committee
Health Committee
Disability Concerns Committee

I carry a heavy caseload of constituency problems, averaging 100 enquiries per month. I am a full time Councillor, devoting my time to working for the Borough.

Other Agencies
Ulster Architectural Heritage Society
Helen’s Bay Residents Association
Seahill Residents Association
Bangor West Residents Association

Within the Ulster Unionist Party
Delegate for North Down to Ulster Unionist Council
Helped write two Party Policy documents on health

Have served on the following:
Chair of the Party Health Sub Committee
Chair Bangor West Branch
Secretary Bangor West Branch
Secretary U.U. Women’s Association North Down
Party Executive

I have been a speaker at many Party Conferences
In November 2000 I was invited by the Party to attend a 2-day conference at the Palace of Westminster entitled ‘ Women into Politics’. During the event I was able to meet and discuss issues with e.g. Baroness Jay, Helen Jackson M.P. and Baroness Crawley. I was also visited 10 Downing Street and spent some time with Cherie Blair.

Other Public Appointments

District Policing Partnership
N.I. Museums Council
INTERREG IIIB & 111C Monitoring Committees
CHAIR -N I Housing Executive Bangor District Office Liaison Panel
Non-Executive Director – Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust (gained place on Trust as a result of open competition)
Serve on the following Committees:
Complaints (Chair)
Board Remuneration
Standing Orders

Board of Governors:
Kilcooley Primary School
Rathmore Primary School
St Columbanus College Bangor

Committee Member:
Holywood Rudolf Steiner Bursary Fund

Other Organisations:
Friends of Bangor Community Hospital
Omnibus Partnership
Festival Committee Bangor Drama Club
Abbeyfield Society
Associate Member Bangor Drama Club
Patron Bangor Amateur Operatic Society
Member of Royal Ulster Yacht Club

I organised and started a branch of Friends of the Earth North Down, already the
group has carried out an important survey within Bangor. As a beginning we are
determined to have the out of date sewage system, raw sewage on our beached and
all issues related to this addressed with urgency by government. North Down must
not be left as a 3rd world country when it comes to matters of such importance to
everyone living in the area.

I have represented the Borough of North Down in many parts of the world, both in a personal capacity and as a Councillor e.g. in New York during my period as Mayor I launched the Titanic Trail endeavour. I have always fulfilled my duties with a sense of pride for my Borough and always with dignity.

General Background
I am a practical person who likes to do things efficiently and effectively.
Have had vast experience of chairing committees and giving constructive contributions to many groups.
Take pride in ability to resolve a very wide range of problems affecting constituents. This goes well beyond solving individual problems e.g. have been very closely involved in the establishment of the Bangor Community Hospital.

Personal Background
Married - husband senior civil servant
Son married living in England.
Daughter married living in Mozambique. - both Chartered Accountants
Member of First Bangor Presbyterian Church.

Some of my Achievements:
Led the fight to retain and upgrade the Carnegie Library.
As a member of the Omnibus Partnership helped to campaign successfully for the retention of the Easybus service.
Involved in the planning of the Community Hospital and established a Friends of the Bangor Community Hospital. Over the past number of years the groups has raised monies to provide for many comforts for the hospital and patients.
Established a Friends of the Earth group in North Down to campaign for better water and sewerage infrastructure and cleaner beaches and seas.
Partnered the way in Council for the campaign against the proposed unequal introduction of a Water Tax.
Single handily brought together the Roads, Service, the EBNI, BT, Lighting Service and other bodies to bring about the redesign with character of Crawfordsburn Main Street.
As Mayor my theme was the ‘Doors of the Town Hall are Open’ during my year I carried out more than 900 engagements and had many hundreds of residents invited into the Town Hall.
Also during that period I visited every religious denomination service in the Borough, my aim was that I would be Mayor to everyone.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Smith nominates winner

I successfully nominated Mrs Ethel Anderson for the Civic Endeavour Award 2005 for Services to the General Public.
The event was marked by a civic dinner at the Town Hall and the presentation of a beautifully framed citation to the winner - Miss Ethel was joined for this special event by her family and friends.
Always known as Miss Ethel she been the leader of the playgroup in West Bangor for many years. In my address I highlighted that Miss Ethel always insists she is part of a team but the interesting thing is that once anyone joins that team no one leaves.
She is one of those wonderful people who leads by example, has tremendous energy and an undying love for children. She has over the years amassed one of the largest families in North Down. Parents who were one part of her playgroup now send their children, carrying on a wonderful tradition.
Her colleagues told me "Miss Ethel of always there if anyone needs help or assistance, she is a true friend and an inspiration to all.
I was honoured to have nominated Miss Ethel for this award and delighted that she was a very worthy winner.