The new Mid & East Antrim District Council should pursue borough status by retaining the charter of one of the three existing boroughs of which it is comprised, Carrick.
That is the recommendation of the new ‘super’ authority’s shadow Policy and Resources Committee which met in Larne last week.
Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told the meeting there were three options. To make a new application for Borough Status, which could cost £10-20,000 and was a lengthy process.
To retain the charter of an existing Council, would cost £1,000 and could automatically take effect on April 1, 2015, ensuring the continuation of borough status. Freemen of previous councils could transfer to the new charter.
Or, thirdly, to remain a district council, which would cost nothing but would mean the Council could not appoint a Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Aldermen or confer freedom of the district and previous freedoms conferred by the predecessor councils would be nullified.
Ms Donaghy said option two, to adopt an existing charter, was the preferred option, stating: “If we take one of the existing borough’s charters that would cost £1,000 and if we get approval at the next council meeting it would allow officers to work and on April 1 we could be in a position where it was brought in with immediate effect.”
In reponse to a question from UUP Cllr Stephen Nicholl, Ms Donaghy said the three charters were ‘basically the same’ in terms of what they allowed Council to do.
She added that the fact that Carrick held one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charters could be something for members to consider and that whichever charter was chosen would have no impact on the current status of the three boroughs, which would eventually be dissolved.
Speaking after the meeting, at which the recommendation to pursue borough status and to adopt Carrick’s charter was agreed, Sinn Féin shadow councillor Paul Maguire said it was a decision that should not be rushed and expressed concern over the reported estimated cost.
He said: “Whilst this (£1,000) might be the the initial set up cost, there are additional and ongoing costs such as a coat of arms, commencement ceremony, ceremonial robes, chains of office, freedom ceremonies etc, etc. The fact is that the cost of borough status will be endless and immeasurable, the ratepayer is effectively signing a blank cheque!
“Our preferred option was 0ption 3 (remain a district council) as it comes at no cost to the ratepayer and allows council to conduct all of it’s business and discharge all of it’s civic and statutory responsibilities to it’s full ability.
Cllr Maguire added: “Sinn Féin are not closing the door to borough status in the future, however, there is no need to rush into any such decision. Remaining a district will not hinder council from functioning effectively and efficiently. In these times of social and economic deprivation, council can spend ratepayer’s money more wisely.”
The Committee’s recommendation on the issue and preferred option has, however, to be returned to the full Council for ratification.