Ten ways to engage with Belfast City Council

17 Sep 2019 Siobhan McAlister    Last updated: 17 Sep 2019

NICVA’s Public Affairs Forum recently held a session with representatives from Belfast City Council and NILGA to learn more about how our sector can best engage with the Council. Below are some useful tips for engaging.

1.Get to know the Council breakdown:

10 District Electoral Areas, 60 Councillors across 8 political parties:

2. Read up on Belfast City Council’s Standing Orders

Standing Orders are for the purpose of regulating the conduct of business at Council and committee meetings, they tell you everything you need to know about how meetings are conducted, how business takes place and how decisions are made.

3. Get to know the roles, structures and responsibilities of the Committees and who sits on them

Strategic Policy and Resources Committee (20 members)

City Growth and Regeneration Committee (20 members)

People and Communities Committee (20 members)

Brexit Committee (20 members)

Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Shareholders Committee (14 members)

Regulatory committees with delegated authority

Planning Committee (14 members)

Licensing Committee (20 members)

4. Get familiar with how committees make decisions

Decision making is based on the traditional committee system. All decisions by committees (except those with delegated authority) are subject to ratification at the full council meeting. Almost all decisions are taken by a simple majority vote by a show of hands unless a recorded vote is requested. In certain circumstances, a qualified majority of 80% of members present is required.

5. Get to know the Council’s working groups

These are established by standing committees and are important links between the community and the council and usually provide a greater level of discussion on issues, these can be area based or thematic. Although decision-making cannot take place at these working groups, they can make recommendations to the standing committee. Current working groups include the Shared City Partnership, Working Group on the Climate Crisis and Reference Group on Older People.

6. Know how to give evidence to a committee

Individuals and organisations can seek permission for a deputation to address a committee on a specific issue. This can be done by getting in touch with the committee chair or writing to Democratic Services Officers. The committee decides whether or not to receive a deputation. The maximum length of a presentation is five minutes. You can ask for advice from Democratic services on giving evidence.

7. Keep up to date with consultations

Consultations are a way to have your say, but also help the council to find out what the priorities are for the local community. You can see current ongoing consultations and also previous consultations

8. Get to know the Belfast Agenda

This is Belfast’s first community plan led by Belfast City Council in partnership with statutory organisations, city partners, local communities and groups to make sure public services work together with communities to deliver outcomes for local communities. The Community Planning Partnership is currently working to strengthen participation and representation of groups and organisations from the voluntary and community sector, including establishing a sectoral advisory panel to ensure voluntary and community sector participation and provide advice and guidance. A Statement of Progress is due to be published in November 2019.

9. Make use of Belfast City Council’s Open Data

This open data is non-personal data held by Belfast City Council and it is free and available to use and includes everything from air quality, city parks, council properties and more. This data can be used to help inform a debate, policy or evidence.

10. Get to know what resources and advice NILGA provide.

NILGA (NI Local Government Association) is the council led representative body for local authorities in NI. They help to promote and develop government by developing regional and specific approaches to key issues affecting the sector. You can find everything from useful guides or councillors, consultations and reports.

If you’d like to know more about NICVA’s Public Affairs Forum and how to get involved, get in touch with [email protected].

 

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.
siobhan.mcalister@nicva.org's picture
by Siobhan McAlister

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]