Good news for Council’s ‘Good Relations’ plan

The Braid. BT8-268AC
The Braid. BT8-268AC

News that cash cuts facing Council’s ‘Good Relations’ Programme have been largely averted has been warmly welcomed by councillors.

It was just one month previously that members of Mid & East Antrim Council’s Community Planning Committee meeting were told of a reduced offer from OFMDFM (the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister) amounting to just 50% of the total salaries and administration costs and £45,000 towards programme costs.

At their latest meeting, last Tuesday night in Ballymena, Committee members were delighted that, in the wake of Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy outlining in writing Council’s “genuine frustration and real concern” over the funding cuts, a revised offer had been received which includes 100% of the total salaries and administration costs applied for and £100,000 towards 2015-2016 programme costs.

While recommending that members accept the revised letter of offer, which she described as a “significant improvement”, Director of Organisation Development & Community Planning, Karen Hargan, pointed out that the programme still remains over £60,000 off being fully funded.

This, she pointed out, would mean that Council would be seeking ‘to cut their cloth’ accordingly.

“The programme will be adapted in order to stay in line with that so there will be no additional cost to the ratepayer,” Mrs Hargan stated.

Good Relations is a legal requirement that places an onus on public bodies to ‘promote positive relationships between persons of different religious belief, political opinion and racial group’ with community groups and individuals encouraged to get involved.

Proposing that the Committee accept the Officer recommendation, Councillor Geraldine Mulvenna described the significantly improved revised offer as “pretty unique” and “a fantastic surprise”.

Her remarks were echoed and supported by Councillors Lynn McClurg, Paul Reid and May Beattie.

The committee went on to approve a recommendation that Council’s CEO signs the Letter of Offer from OFMDFM subject to ratification by full Council, that officers submit a revised Action Plan ‘to meet citizens needs’ and work on the programme taking cognisance of the reduced offer.