Local councils

There are 11 local councils in Northern Ireland, run by democratically-elected councillors. Councils have a range of roles and responsibilities, including providing certain services and representation, from your local sport and leisure centre to collecting your bin.

    Responsibilities of local councils

    Services

    Local councils are responsible for service areas, including:

    • waste collection and disposal
    • recycling and waste management
    • local planning functions
    • civic amenity provision
    • grounds maintenance
    • street cleaning
    • cemeteries
    • public conveniences
    • food safety
    • health and safety
    • environmental protection
    • environmental improvement
    • estates management - building design and maintenance
    • building control-inspection and regulation of new buildings
    • dog control
    • licensing, such as entertainment licensing
    • enforcement byelaws such as those around litter
    • sports, leisure services and recreational facilities
    • parks, open spaces and playgrounds
    • community centres
    • arts, heritage and cultural facilities
    • registration of births, deaths and marriages

    Planning

    • local development plan functions
    • development control and enforcement

    Roads

    • off-street parking (except Park and Ride)

    Local economic development 

    • Start a Business Programme and Enterprise Shows
    • youth entrepreneurship (such as Prince’s Trust and Shell Livewire)
    • social entrepreneurship
    • Investing for Women
    • neighbourhood renewal funding relevant to enterprise initiatives

    Local tourism

    • small-scale tourism accommodation development
    • providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes
    • providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

    Heritage

    • control of alterations, extension and demolition of listed buildings
    • conservation area designation and management
    • listed building enforcement notices
    • compensation where listed building consent has been revoked or modified
    • issuing of Building Preservation Notices. This will allow a council to temporarily list a building for a period of six months pending Northern Ireland Environment Agency assessment of permanently protected status as a listed building. [This is commonly called spot-listing]
    • issuing notices to require Urgent Works to preserve a building
    • community listing (previously called Local Listing) of buildings of special architectural or historic interest

    Local councils are not responsible for the following areas:

    • education
    • personal social services
    • roads
    • public housing
    • fire service
    • police service
    • trading standards
    • drainage water
    • sewerage
    • libraries
    • street lighting
    • collection of rates
    • transport
    • urban regeneration

    Community planning

    Councils lead a community planning process in each district, in partnership with other public service providers and it is a duty of government departments to have regard to community planning.

    Community Planning means the public sector agencies, the community and voluntary sector and businesses in your area working together to deliver better services and better outcomes for everyone. Community plans identify long-term priorities for improving the social, economic and environmental well-being of districts and the people who live there.
     

    Community planning partnerships

    Community Planning Partnerships have been established in each district comprising the council, statutory bodies, agencies and the wider community, including the community and voluntary sector. The partners will develop and carry out a shared plan for promoting the well-being of an area, improving community cohesion and the quality of life for all citizens.

    The Community Planning Statutory partners are:

    • The Education Authority
    • The Health and Social Care Trusts
    • Public Health Agency
    • Health and Social Care Board
    • Police Service of Northern Ireland
    • Northern Ireland Housing Executive
    • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service
    • Invest Northern Ireland
    • Northern Ireland Tourist Board
    • Sports Council for Northern Ireland, (SportNI)
    • Libraries NI
    • Council for Catholic Maintained Schools

    Community safety

    Councils have a role in promoting community safety locally. There are 11 Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs)  across Northern Ireland, one working in each council district. 

    You can find more information about community safety from the link below.

    Getting involved with your local council

    There are lots of ways you can get involved with your local council and the district community plan. From having your say on local issues and developments by responding to council consultations, to taking part in council events, talks and workshops.

    You can also go to some council meetings and get access to meeting papers and notes.

    To find out more visit your local council’s website or speak to your local councillor.

    Mayors and ceremonial duties

    Councils choose a mayor or chairperson and a deputy to carry out civic ceremonial duties.

    Councillors

    Councillors are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the local community about local services, such as waste collections, tourism and leisure facilities. 

    Councillors are also appointed to represent their councils or elected members in general, on a number of public bodies.

    If you want to voice any issues with your local councillor, contact them through your local council.

    Online register of local councillors

    An online register is available  which allows you to find out who councillors are for particular areas in Northern Ireland. The interactive map allows you to input an address or place and you will then be provided with the names of councillors for that area.

    Council decision-making

    Councils have different ways of making decisions.

    Most have a committee structure. This means the council will set up committees to deal with specific areas of the council’s business. These committees will make decisions or recommendations with the agreement of the council.

    Councils can also make decisions using executive arrangements. This is where smaller groups of councillors take decisions on a range of matters within an agreed framework set out by the council.

    Funding

    Local councils get their funding from:

    • rates (District rate element)
    • various grants, mostly provided by the Department of Communities (DfC)
    • government grants
    • fees and charges for certain services
    • loans

    You can find out more about how local councils are funded on the Department for Communities (DfC)'s website.

    Your rates bill

    When setting the 2015/2016 rates, there was a move from 26 different district rates to 11. This meant everyone’s rates changed.

    Information on your rate bill, help with paying your rates, how you can pay your rate bill, rental properties, and valuation of properties for rates is available from the link below. 

    Making a complaint about your local council

    If you have a concern or suggestion about a service, write or speak to a member of staff or the service manager. Contact information for this, and other council services, is listed on your local council's website or in the telephone directory.

    If you are not happy with your reply

    A service manager normally sends you a written reply within a certain number of working days from receiving your complaint.

    If you are not satisfied with the reply, you can contact your council's complaints officer. The complaints officer will confirm that they have received your complaint and, after investigation with the department concerned, they will write to you.

    Your local council will be committed to responding to a complaint within a set number of days. Local circumstances vary slightly and you should contact your local council for full details.

    Taking your complaint further

    The Northern Ireland Ombudsman investigates complaints about local councils.

    Independent of central and local government, the Ombudsman's investigations are impartial. You can complain directly to the Ombudsman at any time, but usually after you have completed your local council's complaints procedure.

    You can make a formal complaint in writing, by email, by fax and online. You can also contact the Ombudsman by freephone to ask for advice before submitting a complaint.

    Making a complaint about a councillor

    Councillors must follow certain rules that set out how they should behave and the standards they should keep to. This is called a code of conduct.

    Read the code of conduct for councillors.

    If you have a complaint about a councillor or feel that they have acted outside the code of conduct, you can contact the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

    You can make a formal complaint in writing, by email, by fax and online. You can also contact the Ombudsman to ask for advice before submitting a complaint.

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