Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is this value for Money?

North Down Borough Council has had been twinned with Bregenz for 20 years the aim of this friendship is to develop social, economic, educational and cultural links between the two towns. I have always stated that I have no problem with the Mayor visiting places such as Bregenz and would encourage schools, groups and any one who wishes to visit anywhere as an ambassador for North Down.

Bangor was twinned on October 21st 1987 and since then around 1000 people have participated in exchanges. However, I question yet again just how much ratepayer’s money has gone on trips to Bregenz over the years.

I have received figures which give me real concern. Since 1989 to date this twinning has cost the Borough some £98,000 with only approximately one sixth of this money going to grants to various groups.

I raise this issue to highlight the amount of money spent on these particular visits and wonder is the ratepayer really getting value for money?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Neighbourhood Watch Scheme

As the Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator for part of Bangor West I have initiated a scheme whereby 12 Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators from Bangor West, Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn meet on a regular basis. The idea of these meetings is that we get to know each other, we have each other’s contact details and with the attendance of the local PSNI officers we can officers exchange and receive valuable information.

At these meetings there will be a particular topic for discussion and from the most recent meeting the PSNI advised we should circulate the following information:

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme works by developing close liaison between the resident, your co-ordinator, and the local police.
The aim is to help people protect themselves and their properties and to reduce the fear of crime by means of improved home security, greater vigilance, accurate reporting of suspicious incidents to the police and by fostering a community spirit.

While I am your local co-ordinator and will help in any way I can – always remember – you must FIRST ring the local PSNI contact which is:

0845 600 8000 and ask for your local police station, which is BANGOR


Make your home more secure.
Opportunist thieves commit most burglaries. In two out of ten burglaries they don’t even have to use force – they get in through an open door or window.
Look at your home through the burglar’s eyes – are there places where they could break in unseen? Have you fitted strong locks on your doors and windows? Would they have to make a lot of noise by breaking glass?
Reduce the risk of burglary happening to you by making sure you’ve taken these simple instructions.
One amazing fact…. Approximately 90% of homes burgled in North Down did not have an alarm!
As the heading states…. Make it difficult for the burglar.

To Mean to Buy 10 Dog Bins


I spoke with anger that the Council should be even having to discuss whether or not they should buy 10 more dog bins to be placed around the Borough.

How can we as Councillors even think about not getting 10 additional bins and cleaning them – as a Council we spend money in many ways, and I realise that we are looking closely at expenditure during this period of rate setting but this is foolish savings. We advertise in our Borough Magazine, in newspapers on the back of buses to clean up when a dog has fouled and many responsible dog owners do, but there is no doubt, the evidence is very clear in our streets, that many still do not. If we are to encourage the cleaning up after dogs – and then say ‘no’ we are not providing bins, this is a very mixed message.

Dog fouling is probably one of the issues raised more often than not on the door step to any politician and we all during electing time vow to make sure this issue is fully addressed and now some Councillors have a decision not to buy 10 dog bins costing £4500 with a further £7280 to clean them. This is a small amount within the council budget, but to me the most surprising element of the debate was that in the report presented to Councillors this evening it stated “The demand for the proposed 10 additional bins reflects the continuing public demand placed on councillors and officers for more bins, especially in housing estates where they are currently lacking”. This I would have thought is a fairly clear message and I know that I have requested 2 of the bins on request from my constituents.

I find the decision made not to purchase these 10 bins just amazing and foolish and I cannot quite work out why so many councillors were against this particularly when the report clearly stated the bins were needed.


At a recent Council meeting there was a heated debate ranging over several issues all related to Sister Cities and Virginia Beach,

The debate began I questioned the proposed visit of a group of teachers form Kempsville Middle School Virginia Beach to Priory College. In a report given to Council there was a worry in that Priory College had been surprised to learn of the proposed visit since they had had no meaningful communication with the Kempsville School for some period of time. The Holywood School was concerned that they would be required to meet the accommodation costs of the visitors particularly now that school budgets were so tight. However, in answering my questions I was told that the school would not have to pay the costs but that Council would. Personally I thought this was a bit of a cheek.

Following on, I said that over many years Virginia Beach has been North Down’s Sister City, this link has done nothing but cost us money, we have been snubbed, Christmas greetings ignored and it was even stated during one debate this evening that we should cut the link. I personally feel it is more than time we cut this expensive link which has done very little for this Borough other than cost the rate payers money.”

This debate was followed closely on a proposed trip to the annual Sister Cities Conference in Kansas City Missouri from 16 – 19 July. I have no problem with the Mayor and one officer going anywhere – the Mayor represents this Borough, but to have 4 councillors and 1 officer traipsing over to Kansas City is an absolute waste of money. I was the only Councillor who voted against this – ‘trip’.

I have asked for the figures as to just how much this has cost the ratepayers of this Borough over the past 13 years, as I do not think the total figure has ever been considered. I have no problem supporting any group, choir or school visiting links with this Borough.

I keep being reassured that wonderful things will happen from these visits, however this promise has been on going for 13 years now and as far as I am concerned it is a jam to morrow policy.