Looking for information about a council service?
8th January 2008
Minutes of the Meeting of Strabane District Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane on Tuesday 8 January 2008 at 7.30 p.m.
Present: - In the Chair: Councillor G Foley
Other Members: Councillors I Barr, A Bresland, D Breslin, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, T McBride, C McGill, K McGuire, C McHugh, B McMahon, E McMenamin, J McNulty, J O’Kane
Total = 16
In Attendance: Clerk & Chief Executive, Business Manager, Administrative Officer
The Chairman wished all Members and staff a very happy New Year.
Letters of Sympathy
On the proposal of Councillor McMahon, seconded by Councillor McNulty, it was agreed to send a letter of sympathy to the wife of the late Danny Molloy, who was an employee of the Council’s Technical Services Department. In expressing their sympathy, Members noted that Mr Molloy had been a great community activist and GAA supporter who would be very much missed. Members noted that this was reflected by the very well attended funeral over the Christmas period.
It was agreed, at the request of Councillor Barr to send a letter of sympathy to employee Jude Arbuckle on the death of his mother, Sheila Arbuckle.
Councillor Emery noted that Councillor McBride’s wife had been in a recent car accident and extended his best wishes for her recovery.
Councillor McBride thanked Members for their best wishes and said that his wife was well.
The Minutes of the Special Council Meeting held on Tuesday 4 December 2007 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor McNulty seconded by Councillor McMenamin and signed by the Chairman.
Councillor Hussey joined the meeting at 7.35pm.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 9 – Roads Service Report
Councillor McNulty queried if there had been any update from Roads Service on traffic calming measures at Newtownkennedy Street. The Chief Executive (CE) felt that an update would be provided when their investigations had been undertaken.
Lifford Road Lay-by
Councillor McMenamin queried who was responsible for the lay-by at the Sculpture Site where he noted a 40ft container was parked every weekend. He said that the container, which was an eyesore, also blocked the view of the Sculpture site for any tourists visiting the area.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Council held on Monday 10 December 2007 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor McMenamin seconded by Councillor O’Kane and signed by the Chairman.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 3 – Sports Development Capital Grants
Councillor McHugh noted that a recent meeting to discuss the above issue had been determined as a working group meeting. He understood that the status of the meeting was meant to be that of a sub committee and he hoped that this would be arranged with a minute taker present.
The Minutes of the Economic Development Committee Meeting held on Tuesday 11 December 2007 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane seconded by Councillor McMenamin.
The Minutes of the Culture, Arts & Leisure Committee Meeting held on Tuesday 11 December 2007 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor Breslin seconded by Councillor Kerrigan.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Riversdale/Derg Valley Leisure Centres
Councillor Hussey requested a report on the differentials between the charging systems within Derg Valley and Riversdale Leisure Centres.
The Minutes of the Corporate and Regulatory Services Committee held on Wednesday 12 December 2007 were adopted as a true record of the meeting on the proposal of Councillor McHugh seconded by Councillor O’Kane.
Matters Arising from Minutes
Page 2 – Women Into Politics
In response to Councillor McGill, the CE said that he would seek clarification on the role of this initiative.
Motion in the name of Councillor Hussey
“That this Council considers that the draft Programme for Government and draft budget in their present form will fail to deliver social and economic progress for the people of the Strabane district and Northern Ireland.”
The Draft Programme for Government 2008-2011, the Draft Budget 2008-2011, the Draft Investment Strategy 2008-2018 and Council’s response to the consultation had been distributed to Members for their information.
Councillor Hussey said that there were a number of areas of the Draft Budget, which raised concerns. He said that with regards to health, if the present budget was implemented, the outcome would be a second rate health service. He noted that the health service was £300 million under funded compared to the rest of the UK and if the draft budget was agreed this gap would double by 2011. He said that mental health was also under funded by 25% compared to the rest of the UK. He highlighted that the Health Minister had been only allocated £18 million. He noted that services such as breast screening would be under threat as a result, with approximately 45,000 women not benefiting from the screening process. He said that the Chief Fire Officer had warned that lives would be lost if the budget went ahead, as a number of fire stations would be removed from service. He added that resources would be more thinly spread with a proposed budget of £4.1 million, which was the lowest in years. He referred to other areas which would be affected including the arts and cultural sector, affordable housing, elderly care and queried the financial package which had been promised by the First Minister. He referred to the missing £26 million from the Northern Bank Robbery and said he would defer to the Chairman and his party colleagues on the issue.
Councillor McGuire joined the meeting at 7.45pm.
Councillor McGill interjected and questioned the reference by Councillor Hussey to the £26 million and the Chairman and party colleagues.
Councillor McHugh said that the matter referred to, was a legal issue and was within the Court Service.
The Chairman asked Councillor Hussey to withdraw his remark. Councillor Hussey said that he did not intend to withdraw his remark.
Councillor McMahon said that up until that point, he had found the information being provided by Councillor Hussey to be useful but felt that the subsequent reference made by Councillor Hussey was out of order.
Councillor Breslin proposed that Councillor Hussey not be heard if he did not withdraw the offending remark. This was seconded by Councillor McHugh.
Councillor Hussey reconfirmed that he was not withdrawing his remark.
On the proposal of Councillor McHugh, seconded by Councillor Breslin it was agreed with 10 votes for, 1 against and 4 abstentions that the meeting be adjourned for 5 minutes.
Councillor Bresland noted that the motion had not been proposed and seconded at the start of the agenda item.
The meeting adjourned at 7.50pm and reconvened at 8.00pm.
The Chairman requested Councillor Hussey to withdraw his remark. Councillor Hussey said that he was prepared to withdraw the remark as part of his submission regarding the motion but would not withdraw his personal belief on the matter.
The CE noted that Council had already submitted its response to the Minister, a copy of which had been distributed for Members’ information.
Councillor Donnell queried why Council was debating the motion given that a response had already been submitted.
In response to Councillor Barr, the CE clarified that the deadline for submissions was 4 January 2008 and, following the discussion at the December Council meeting, staff had no option but to prepare a response. He added that the Corporate Policy Officer (CPO) had distributed a draft response to Members for their comments prior to submitting the response.
Councillor Barr felt that the letter had not reiterated Council’s policy on the introduction of water charges.
The CE said that on the wider issues such as water charges, should Council have specific issues to raise, letters could be sent accordingly. He reiterated the tight timeframe for a response to the consultation.
Councillor Emery confirmed that he had received the draft response from the CPO to which he had responded.
Councillor Breslin said that as Councillor Hussey had withdrawn the remark as part of the discussion on the motion, he withdrew his previously proposed motion.
The Chairman asked for a seconder to Councillor Hussey’s motion. As no seconder was found, there was no further debate on the motion.
On the proposal of Councillor McHugh, seconded by Councillor McGuire, it was agreed to move onto the next business of the meeting.
Motion in the name of Councillor Barr
“In view of the overbearing performance of NCP attendants in Strabane, which to date would appear to have unfairly penalised both motorists and local traders alike, this Council now resolves to call on Roads Service, as part of the forthcoming review of the function of NCP, to take the necessary action to ensure that in future, NCP attendants enforce the car parking legislation with a more appropriate degree of common sense and flexibility.”
Councillor McGill formally seconded the motion.
In proposing the motion, Councillor Barr said that he did so as a Councillor and as a non-driver. He referred to a previous site meeting with local traders, Roads Service, NCP representatives and Councillors when various issues including loading/unloading had been raised. He noted the lack of flexibility being used by NCP personnel regarding the issuing of tickets. He gave examples of what had been regarded previously as custom and practice e.g. vehicles parked during Church times which were once not targeted, now appeared to be ready made victims. He noted that concerns relating to private firms clamping cars had previously been raised with Roads Service who had confirmed that they would be monitoring the performance of such companies. He referred to motives such as bonuses and employees having to provide a certain number of tickets in order to keep their jobs as being a concern. He understood a review of the system was to take place soon and he felt that there was a need for Council to lobby for flexibility of enforcement tactics.
The Chairman said that the Minister for Regional Development had agreed to meet with Council to discuss the issue of parking enforcement and that a date for the meeting would be arranged to which all Members would be invited.
Councillor O’Kane said that he supported the motion. He noted that there were concerns on the Derry Road with buses partly parked on the road to allow passengers to disembark and it was difficult to pass, as there was an island at the given location.
Councillor McGill referred to town centre regeneration and felt that it was an opportune time for the motion given the planned meeting with the Minister. She certainly felt that town centre parking issues had to be addressed given the concerns of traders.
Councillor McMenamin supported the motion. He felt that it was a love hate relationship with traffic wardens and that diplomacy was non-existent. He said that statistics showed that the issuing of tickets had increased tenfold which was deterring visitors from town centres. He said that he was also unclear who was currently responsible for directing traffic flow. He noted that his comments were no reflection on any particular NCP staff.
Councillor Hussey said that he had previously received parking tickets but had never received them unjustly. He felt it was wrong to demonise NCP personnel as they were bound by regulations, which were applied when necessary. He said that within the Castlederg town centre, motorists parking irresponsibly caused the majority of parking problems and he would like to see more NCP personnel. He said he would not be supporting the motion.
Councillor Barr said that it was not his intention to demonise NCP personnel. He noted that NCP staff were formerly traffic wardens and as such, they undertook their duties to the best of their ability. Similarly, the PSNI would say the same however, he felt that there had previously been a degree of flexibility. He said that under the current guidelines, Roads Service was responsible with the Minister setting the regulations. He felt that, as part of this review, a common sense approach to the regulations was very much required.
Councillor Hussey proposed an amendment to include a further sentence: “In view of the perceived overbearing performance of NCP personnel in the district Council area, Council should consult with the Minister when he visited the area on this issue.”
Councillor Emery seconded the amendment.
Councillor Barr understood that the review may take place before the visit from the Minister and he felt it was important to proceed with the action proposed in the motion.
A vote was taken on the amendment with 5 votes for, 10 against and 1 abstention. The amendment fell.
A vote was taken on the original motion with 10 votes for, 0 against and 6 abstentions. The motion was carried.
The CE noted that the Minister had also agreed to meet with Strabane 2000 to discuss the bridges project and it was felt that it would be beneficial to combine the meetings with the Minister to which Members, Strabane 2000 and Chamber of Commerce representatives could attend.
Councillor McNulty felt that it was a good idea to merge the meetings, as there was the opportunity during the Minister’s visit to raise a number of concerns.
The CE reported that Council would have to consider a number of issues in relation to Strabane 2000 including budgets, bank accounts and staffing, in addition to various issues such as town centre management and de-pedestrianisation. He felt that it was not the forum to discuss these matters at present, as he was awaiting a letter from the Chamber of Commerce regarding ongoing issues. He said the matter would be raised at a future meeting.
Councillor McNulty, as Chairman of Strabane 2000 said he understood that Officers required time to obtain relevant correspondence in order to have appropriate discussions. He said that he would however, hope that the situation could be resolved as soon as practicable.
On the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by Councillor Barr, it was agreed that the CE would bring back a report on the various issues. It was felt that the Audit & Staff Sub Committee could deal with the budget and bank account issues.
Quarry Products Association (QPA)
Correspondence from the above association had been distributed for Members’ attention relating to investment in roads maintenance.
Members’ views including the following:
· There was increasing anxiety relating to the economy and a more accurate account from the relevant Department regarding their spend proposals was needed
· Queried if there would be a difficulty supporting an association which represented private companies
· Queried if QPA had contacted Roads Service on the matter
· QPA had previously made a presentation to Council when one of their concerns had been a decrease in purchasing figures in relation to their products
· Concerns raised previously by QPA had included quarry tax being applied to aggregate
· QPA was an umbrella group for companies in that trade sector and Council had supported umbrella groups in the past
· A motion had been tabled during the previous lifetime of the Assembly by Councillor Hussey
· This business sector was prominent in the district Council area
In response to queries, the CE said that he was unclear if Roads Service had been contacted directly by the Association but he was aware that all Councils had been approached in this regard. He said that under Freedom of Information, QPA would be able to seek the relevant information. He felt that Council could request the information and subsequently decide the next step on receipt of the details.
On the proposal of Councillor McHugh, seconded by Councillor Hussey it was agreed to support the letter and request the details from Roads Service.
Western Health & Social Services Board (WHSSB) - Suicides
Correspondence from WHSSB had been distributed for Members’ attention relating to the draft Community Response Plan for the Prevention and Containment of Suicide Clusters.
The CE said that Council had been approached by WHSSB to accept the draft Plan and to make arrangements to put something in place locally in the event of a perceived suicide cluster. He said that he had met with the Board and various groups and it was felt that it was important to proceed with the implementation process of the initiative. He added that there was a need to set up a local community response team and convene an appropriate information session. He referred to a tabled draft letter and recommended list of organisations and individuals to be invited. He said that the list was not exhaustive should any Member have anything to add. He felt that perhaps 4 Members could be represented on the team.
Councillor McMahon said he was pleased that Council was taking an important role in the community response team, which he felt was a worthwhile initiative.
Councillor McNulty noted that he had attended the meeting and felt that it was certainly a very necessary step to have proper procedures in place. He said that the issue crossed all divides and felt that it would be beneficial if the number of participating Members could be increased if necessary.
Councillor Hussey felt that it would be important for families of suicide victims to be involved in the process. He said that he had a relative who had taken his own life and it was important to know about the aftermath of a suicide from a family perspective.
Councillor Barr welcomed the initiative but felt that the Health Board needed to consider improvements in the field of psychiatric care.
It was agreed that Members should have the opportunity to consider the letter in more detail, with the matter to be raised at a forthcoming meeting the following evening.
NI Federation of Housing Associations
Correspondence from the above association had been distributed for Members’ attention relating to a request to make a presentation to Council.
On the proposal of Councillor McMenamin, seconded by Councillor Hussey it was agreed to invite the Federation to make a presentation to Council.
Burial Rights Grants
On the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor McMenamin, forms of grant in respect of the following were signed and sealed on behalf of Council: -
16 Derg Road
Ardstraw - 2 plots
23 Drumeagle Road
Sion Mills - 2 plots
51 Old Castle Road
Newtownstewart - 1 plot
60 Derbrough Road
Plumbridge - 1 plot
1 Silverhill Road
Castlederg - 2 plots
18 Altrest Road
L’Derry - 1 plot
42 Longland Road
Donemana - 2 plots
35 Killymallaght Road
L’Derry - Transfer of ownership
18 Fountain Park
Strabane - Transfer of ownership
Any Other Business
The CE referred to the tabled letter from the Roads Service, on which Council was required to respond on 2 issues.
The Business Manager (BM) reported that Council had been previously asked for views regarding loading bays but following receipt of a subsequent letter in which it was noted that the implementation of the loading bays had already taken place, Council wrote to Roads Service outlining this anomaly. She said that the letter now tabled for Members’ attention clarified that confirmation of Council’s agreement to the changes was still required.
The BM referred to the further issue of on and off street parking at Upper Main Street, Strabane, which required a Council response. She reported that Council had been consulted on the proposals to change the car park to include a number of pay and display spaces. She added that Council had responded in opposition to the proposals. She noted that the current letter was asking Council to reconsider its position on the matter.
Councillor Barr said that Roads Service at a recent Council meeting had intimated that the Health Centre would be prepared to accept a number of pay and display spaces. He requested that the Manager of the Health Centre be contacted to establish if they had indeed reviewed their position.
Other Members’ views included the following:
· Simple answer would be to let the status quo prevail
· Perhaps those attending the Health Centre could park free of charge during a Doctor’s appointment
It was felt that further time was needed to analyse the issues and it was agreed that the matter would be raised again at a forthcoming Committee meeting.
3rd Annual All Ireland Infrastructure Investment Conference, 6-7 February 2008 Dublin at an estimated cost of £824.67. Details and costing had been tabled for Members’ attention. Members expressed no interest and the details were marked ‘as read’.
Cross Border Spatial Planning and Development Fostering Co–operation, 17 January 2008, Armagh. Details and costing had been tabled for Members’ attention.
It was agreed that Councillor Hussey would attend the conference.
PEACE III Consultation
The CE referred to the draft agenda, tabled for Members’ attention in relation to the consultation event to be held at the Fir Trees Hotel on 24 January 2008. He noted the list of organisations/groups, which would be invited to attend the event.
Councillor McNulty urged Members who were available, to attend this important consultation session.
On the proposal of Councillor McGuire, seconded by Councillor McGill, it was agreed to invite the Post Office to Council to discuss the Network Change Programme.
Low Energy Light Bulbs
Councillor McNulty noted recent media coverage regarding concerns with low energy light bulbs, in particular the effects of mercury, which was contained within the bulbs. He requested that the Chief Environmental Health Officer provide a report on any safety concerns.
Councillor Hussey also understood that the bulbs could enhance migraines caused by the bulbs flickering and agreed that it would be useful to have a report as a precautionary measure.
On the proposal of Councillor McMahon, seconded by Councillor O’Kane it was agreed to have a Chairman’s reception for Fr. Pat Arkinson who had celebrated 25 years of service in the priesthood.
Letters of Congratulations
It was agreed to send letters of congratulations following the New Year’s Honours List to Harry Friar OBE and Ricky Russell MBE.
On the proposal of Councillor Breslin seconded by Councillor McMenamin the meeting went “into Committee”.
The meeting concluded at 9.15 p.m.
DATED this 8th day of JANUARY 2008
Clerk & Chief Executive
DATED this 12th day of FEBRUARY 2008
Chairman of the Council