Taking a closer look at the... Operations Committee

Operations Committee chairman Alderman John Smyth and vice chair Councillor Vera McWilliam. INNT 27-560CON
Operations Committee chairman Alderman John Smyth and vice chair Councillor Vera McWilliam. INNT 27-560CON

Decisions made by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council affect you and everyone living, working, visiting or investing in the borough.

The council has five committees that take decisions on everything from rates to recycling, parks to planning and bins to burials. Those decisions then have to be ratified when full council meets at the end of each month.

In a series of profiles over the next few weeks, we will take a look at each of the committees and its roles and responsibilities...

Operations Committee

Alderman John Smyth (DUP) is chair of the Operations Committee

Q: What does your committee do?

A: The Operations Committee has responsibility for the general oversight and policy relating to: Recycling; street cleansing and refuse collection; environmental health; leisure services and facilities; theatres; museums and heritage; parks, play areas; arts, sports and play development; car parks; cemeteries; biodiversity and sustainability.

Q: Who are the councillors on the committee?

A: Including the vice chair, Councillor Vera McWilliam (UUP) and myself, the committee has 15 members: Ald William Ball (DUP); Ald Thomas Burns (SDLP); Ald Mark Cosgrove (UUP); Ald Mandy Girvan (DUP); Cllr Audrey Ball (DUP); Cllr John Blair (Alliance); Cllr Linda Clarke (DUP); Cllr Michael Goodman (Sinn Fein); Cllr Neil Kelly (Alliance); Cllr Matthew Magill (DUP); Cllr Mervyn Rea (UUP); Cllr Drew Ritchie (UUP); a replacement has yet to be confirmed for Ald Adrian Cochrane-Watson (UUP).

Q: What recommendations has your committee made since April 1?

A: Some of the recommendations that stand out for me are; approval of summer schemes; the continuation of the very successful Affordable Warmth Scheme; an increase in the budget for leisure and sport grants and approval of a new ‘Cultural Life’ publication promoting our vibrant arts and theatre programmes.

Although we’ve recently won Best Kept Awards, we’ve also been discussing the obstacles we’re facing with the introduction of new traffic regulations and budget cuts faced by TransportNI which has been affecting the regular grass cutting programme locally and throughout Northern Ireland.

All our recommendations are in the minutes of our meetings on the council’s website - www.antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk

As well as the written minutes, there’s an audio recording. So you can hear how issues are discussed and how decisions are reached.

Q: Do the members of the committee always agree?

A: At the committee meetings, all the members have the opportunity to have their say and express their view on the items on the agenda. Of course, we’re not always going to agree but, when it comes to a vote, it’s down to the majority view. That’s how democracy works.

Q: How do we get in touch with members of the committee?

A: Our telephone numbers and email addresses are on the council’s website.

Q: How does the committee know what the ratepayers want?

A: The views of local people have always been important to us. However, now that councils have responsibility for Community Planning, we will have more opportunity to sit around the table with local people, community and voluntary groups, service providers and budget holders to ensure that services are delivered that meet the needs of our community.

• Committee and full council meetings of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council are held once a month, alternating between Antrim Civic Centre and Mossley Mill, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Next week we’ll look at the role of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee.