Outgoing Chairman’s Remarks
Councillor Kerrigan welcomed Members and staff to the AGM and addressed the meeting as follows:
“Whilst serving as first citizen, I have seen the landscape of Strabane District Council undergo a marked change. We have made vast progress in achieving our mission to make Strabane District an excellent place to live, work, invest and visit.
In June 2007, Strabane District Council demonstrated further evidence of its commitment to provide better, high quality services. Our Building Control department was accredited with ‘Charter Mark’ status for its quality services, we were accredited as an ‘Employer of Choice’ and one of our employees was awarded the ‘William Johnston Local Government Employee of the Year’.
In March 2007, we also set one of our lowest ever rate increase. We have worked hard to ensure that our rates are low and that our citizens are getting value for money. In 2007/08, residents living within Strabane District received one of the lowest rates bills of all District Councils in Northern Ireland.
Opening of the Alley Theatre, the new Arts, Cultural, Exhibition and Conference Centre, has to be one of the proudest days I have had. Citizens of all ages now have increased choice. They have access to a range of cultural events and activities and it has enriched and diversified our night-time economy. Citizens of Strabane District have embraced this new facility and it is already proving to be a thriving hub of cultural activity in the heart of the district.
I have also witnessed employment increase in the retail, distribution, business and finance sectors this year, which have offset the decline in other industries. Major retailers such as ASDA have invested heavily in Strabane and many more are considering investing in this district. We have also seen our indigenous businesses thrive and expand.
We have also seen marked improvements in the environment due to the implementation of environmental improvement schemes across the district. Strabane 2000 launched plans for two pedestrian bridges, visibly improving the town centre and progressing the living over the shops initiative. HEART has extended this regeneration programme to Castlederg, Donemana, Newtownstewart, Plumbridge and Sion Mills.
I also was honoured to serve whilst Strabane District Council extended our leisure and recreation facilities at Melvin and Derg Valley and I also had the privilege of opening the new Translink bus station.
I have witnessed further progress in good relations over this term of office, both locally and regionally. I have been involved in launching many unique community relations events and have noted the prevailing sense of peace in Strabane District. We also have launched our disability action plan and worked closely with the equality commission on the compliance with our equality duties.
It has been an honour meeting all the local heroes of the district, at the many receptions that we held at the Council. It also has been great fun attending the Fair Day and the Christmas Lights Switch ons and the many other events and festivities.
The 30 April was another landmark date with the introduction of the smoke free legislation. Council had been engaged in months of preparation and awareness raising in advance of this date. Thankfully, we all now have space to breathe.
In early 2007 we also spent some time reflecting, reviewing and planning. We reframed our vision and changed our objectives. The changes proposed by the Review of Public Administration has put us all in a climate of change. We are committed to ensuring that our citizens, staff, processes and services are positioned for the changes. We are also committed to protecting and enhancing the legacy of Strabane District Council.
Waste collection and disposal also continue to be a major strain for Strabane District Council. Next year we expect to send an extra 1,000 tonnes of waste to landfill. This has resulted in a further £67,000 increase in costs to ratepayers. I would like to see more steps taken by local people to manage their waste. We are all going to experience major rate increases if people do not reduce, re-use and recycle more.
In 2007/08 Strabane District Council has engaged in ongoing lobbying to protect and sustain our rural communities. The introduction of government policies such as PPS14 and the Bain report has caused considerable concern within the Chamber. Coming from a rural, agricultural background, I am keen to ensure that our rural community is protected, supported and sustained.
One of the last duties I carried out was last Friday at the Garden Party in Coleraine where I had the honour to meet the Duke of Edinburgh and the Secretary of State, First Minister and staff.
Councillor O’Kane wanted to extend his compliments to Councillor Kerrigan and stated that he had been an outstanding ambassador for the Council and was very accommodating in receiving delegations and hosting presentations throughout his year as Chairman.
Councillor McBride wished to be associated with Councillor O’Kane’s comments and congratulated Councillor Kerrigan for a job well done.
On behalf of Sinn Féin Councillor McNulty wished to thank Councillor Kerrigan for his hard work throughout the year and stated that he had conducted his office in a very fair and informal manner and was extremely helpful and co-operative to all political parties, which enhanced the strength of the Council as a corporate body.
Councillor Emery congratulated Councillor Kerrigan on a very successful year and was grateful for the many duties he undertook as Chairman, in addition to carrying out extra duties serving on various committees. He felt that Councillor Kerrigan conducted all Council meetings in a very fair and proper manner.
Councillor Donnell also wanted to congratulate Councillor Kerrigan for a very successful year and he also felt that all duties were carried out in a fair way.
Councillor Foley, Vice Chairman, thanked Councillor Kerrigan for all his guidance throughout the year and expressed his appreciation of the help given to him.
The Chief Executive (CE), on behalf of Senior Officers and staff, expressed his gratitude to the Chairman and Vice Chairman for the work undertaken over the year. He felt that it had been a very productive year and Councillor Kerrigan was to be commended for all his hard work.
Councillor Kerrigan thanked everyone for all their kind comments and advised there was still a lot of work to be done and wished the incoming Chairman every success.
Election of Chairperson
In line with the D’Hondt system agreed at the AGM in 2005, SF had accepted the Chairmanship of Council for Year 3.
On the proposal of Councillor McGuire, seconded by Councillor McMahon, Councillor Foley was nominated for the position of Chairman. The nomination was agreed unanimously and Councillor Foley was duly elected as Chairman of the Council for the forthcoming year.
Incoming Chairman’s Remarks
Councillor Foley took his seat as Chairman of Council. He thanked his proposer, seconder and party colleagues for the nomination. He addressed the meeting as follows:
“I consider it a great honour and privilege to have been elected to the position of Chairperson of Strabane District Council.
I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing Chair, who has endeavoured at all times to discharge the responsibilities of his office in a pro-active and inclusive manner and for the benefit of everyone in the District.
While political differences continue to exist within this Chamber, in recent years, we have witnessed a greater willingness by all Councillors to work collectively and constructively to improve the quality of life for all the people of the District whether it be economically, socially or culturally.
While no one underestimates the challenges that we continue to face in the District, particularly in terms of the local economy, the new political dispensation on this island presents us with a golden opportunity to effect further positive change.
In my year as Chairperson, I will therefore be seeking to engender a strong Unity of Purpose from this Council as a whole as we make the case to each Executive Department, cross-border and All-Ireland body for Strabane District to be allocated its fair share of investment and resources.
Finally, I would like to finish by thanking Council officials and staff for their sterling work, day in day out, year in year out.”
Election of Vice-Chairperson
In line with the D’Hondt system the UUP had accepted the position of Vice Chair of Council for Year 3.
On the proposal of Councillor Emery, seconded by Councillor O’Kane, Councillor Hussey was duly elected as Vice Chairman of Council for the forthcoming year.
Incoming Vice Chairman’s Remarks
Councillor Hussey stated that he felt humbled in accepting the supportive role as Vice Chairman of Strabane District Council. He advised he would carry out his duties to the best of his ability and in an impartial and responsible way, for the good of the Council and the District as a whole.
The meeting concluded at 8.45 p.m.