Council merger signals start of ‘a new era’

Chief executive Jacqui Dixon, Mayor Thomas Hogg, Deputy Mayor Pat McCudden, aldermen and councillors gathered at Mossley Mill on Monday evening, March 30 before the final meeting of Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Chief executive Jacqui Dixon, Mayor Thomas Hogg, Deputy Mayor Pat McCudden, aldermen and councillors gathered at Mossley Mill on Monday evening, March 30 before the final meeting of Newtownabbey Borough Council.
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The last ever meeting of Newtownabbey Borough Council on Monday night (March 30) heralded the start of a new era for local government.

That was the view of local councillors, many of whom will now serve on the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

It was an evening of mixed emotions at Mossley Mill as members reflected on the achievements of Newtownabbey Council over the past 42 years and paid tribute to those elected members and senior staff who won’t be transferring to the new local authority.

Mayor Thomas Hogg, whose DUP colleagues Dineen Walker and Jackie Mann weren’t in attendance, officially opened Monday’s meeting, hailing it “an historic occasion.”

Party politics and the petty squabbles of the past were put aside for the evening as members took turns congratulating each other, and council management and staff, on a job well done.

Tributes were paid to the Mayor and his Deputy, Alderman Pat McCudden, for their sterling service over the past 10 months, and the nine councillors - Lynn Frazer, Pat McCudden, Marie Mackessy, Gerry O’Reilly, Dineen Walker, Jackie Mann, Victor Robinson, Robert Hill and Ken Robinson - who didn’t stand for re-election or failed to win seats on the new council. Special mentions were saved for long-serving councillors Ken Robinson, Pat McCudden, Lynn Frazer and Victor Robinson.

Wishing his outgoing colleagues well for the future, Alderman Hogg praised them for their outstanding commitment to the council and their constituents.

Recognising the work of elected representatives over the years, he stressed that they had been “motivated by citizenship and a desire to improve and enhance the communities in which they live” and said that he had been proud to serve alongside each of them.

Closing the council’s final meeting and welcoming in the new era of local government, a Winston Churchill-inspired Alderman Hogg suggested that it was not the end, but perhaps just the end of the beginning.

That beginning, marked by the biggest local government shake-up for more than 40 years, sees the new local authority take responsibility for providing services and facilities for 138,000 residents and more than 3,700 businesses.

The new so-called ‘super council’, which operated in shadow form for 10 months to pave the may for the merger of Antrim and Newtownabbey on April 1, has additional powers and responsibilities, including overseeing planning, community planning and economic development.

• More council merger and civic legacy celebration coverage in this week’s Times (on sale now)

• Watch the civic legacy celebration video by clicking here.