FIVE of Bangor’s biggest local community associations have issued a polling day plea for the borough’s new councillors to work harder for residents.
As voters across Ards and North Down go to the polls to elect 40 local councillors, the community associations from Bloomfield, Breezemount, Conlig, Clandeboye and Whitehall have jointly criticised the ‘challenge’ of trying to ‘navigate a complex council structure’.
With association representatives daily contacted by local residents with concerns such as anti-social behaviour, parking problems, graffiti and fly tipping they have hit out at the local authority’s ‘frustrating processes’ that often forces people to ‘just give up’.
In a bid to prevent local communities from being ‘overlooked’ in both funding and resources, the community associations have come together and called for those elected to commit to carrying out five pledges they have compiled to help those most in need.
In the first of the pledges, the community associations are calling on councillors to ‘ask before acting’ ensuring that communities are consulted before decisions are taken and details are shared of what is happening and when.
Secondly they want elected representatives to pledge to ‘understand the impact’ of their decisions by engaging with communities and ‘spending time in and with the communities they are elected to serve’.
Thirdly, they have asked for councillors to ‘share information’ to help resolve problems more quickly and make complex council systems easier to understand.
They have asked councillors to pledge to ‘invest in communities’ as ‘for too long many areas of need have not experienced investment or regeneration and even basic needs such as street cleaning should be more regular and communicated to residents’.
The joint delegation has also called on incoming elected representatives to commit to ‘appreciating the differences’ of local communities and acknowledge that a ‘one size fits all approach’ does ‘not work or serve communities well’. They would also like councillors to ‘work towards making funding proportional and ensure it reflects the actual cost of running events in communities’.
North Down Community Network is an umbrella organisation for the various community groups and its manager is Louise Little.
“Ahead of the Ards and North Down council elections, five volunteer lead community associations from Bloomfield, Breeemount, Config, Clandeboye and Whitehall created a short video, Knock, Knock – Who Cares,” she said.
“The video explains that community association volunteers on a very regular, often daily basis, are being contacted by residents within the community who are reporting issues and concerns about things happening in their area such as anti-social behaviour, parking, graffiti, dumping and so much more.
“Sometimes residents are looking for information about who to contact and how to get things done faster but navigating their way through a complex council structure can be a challenge. Getting things done, should not be so hard.
“It can be a frustrating process to have people having to make multiple calls to get things reported or done, so often people just give up. The challenge then is that often resources and money go to the issues and areas where people report the most, but this can mean that some needs are hidden or some areas are overlooked.”
Louise explained the pledges had already received the backing from some of the local election hopefuls. “In advance of the election, the community associations organised an evening event which was open to all candidates from the areas and have these commitments presented to them. There was a great turnout out with 16 representatives from all of the parties standing, as well and some independent candidates attending.
“The evening included valuable discussions and a helpful sharing of perspectives and opinions, there was unanimous endorsement of these commitments by all candidates in attendance and further support from many other candidates now that the video has been released publicly across all the main social media platforms including TikTok and Facebook.”
Said Louise: “The community assocations would ask that those who are successfully elected to council this May, work with them in order to deliver on these five commitments.”