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Sinn Féin welcome debate on local area based forums as part of local government shake-up

16 August, 2006

Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has welcomed the debate from the UUP on how to develop wider democratic participation as part of the shake-up of local government.

Responding to comments from Sam Gardiner, Mr McLaughlin said:

"In our original submission to the Review of Public Administration Sinn Féin put forward the proposal that local Area Based Committees (ABCs) would complement the new 7 council model and strengthen the development of participatory democracy, particularly in relation to the new process of community planning.

"Sinn Féin believe that rather than a civic council that Area Based Committees should have a statutory role in community planning that would allow local people to have a direct input into the delivery of local services in their area. Unfortunately few other political parties brought forward proposals around this issue; instead they allowed themselves to become distracted by the numbers game.

"I very much welcome a renewed focus on the issue of local area based forums. Hopefully this will also lead to a greater commitment to strengthening the role of community planning and developing forums that can deliver real participation in the decision making process.

"Sinn Féin want to see the development of community planning to encompass almost everything from transport to health, the environment and community development, with an onus on statutory bodies and departments to work with the council. This means that departments will have to work with the council and in this way empower both local government and the local communities.

"Sinn Féin are continuing to argue for a statutory duty on councils to work with local communities and residents. Such a move would put the people the heart of local government and make sure that Community Planning truly represents the needs of the community." ENDS

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