1973 Local Government Election - Northern Ireland Labour Party Manifesto
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Belfast Council Elections 1973
Published by Northern Ireland Labour Party
The programme which the Labour Party is putting forward represents a radical and challenging new approach to local politics. The Labour Party has a proud record of being the first to introduce many of the better ideas which have been implemented, although rather belatedly, to make Northern Ireland a better place to live in. As this programme will show. we are still the pacesetter for change and improvement in Northern Ireland. The new local government structure demands a new kind of politics. The old structure of local government reflected the divisions in our community. The new structures can, and I am sure will, reflect the desire of our community to come together to create the best possible towns and cities for us all to live in. This "coming together" which is so necessary at provincial level if we are to have any life worth living, must begin now. Where better for it to begin than at local level in our own sadly scarred city? I hope that these proposals for a better Belfast will be an important contribution to the rebirth of community life throughout our province.
Vivian Simpson, M.P.
BELFAST COUNCIL ELECTIONS 1973
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES The re-organisation of local government has resulted in the centralisation of many of the duties previously undertaken by the Belfast Corporation. In an area as small as Northern Ireland we believe this trend to centralising services is necessary if efficient and cheap services are to be provided for all citizens - provided that these centralised services are controlled by a democratically elected and powerful Northern Ireland Parliament. Belfast Corporation will remain responsible for entertainment, culture and recreation; environmental health; cleansing and sanitation; cemeteries; gas and markets. However, Belfast Council will still have an enormously powerful influence (on the major services which have been taken away from local authorities) because a large proportion of the Area Boards will be elected by the Council. Moreover, the Council will have rights of consultation in regard to its own area. More important, dynamic and imaginative leadership by the new Council would enable the City Council to put forward projects and initiate plans and discussion for a whole range of matters which affect the Cityís inhabitants but are technically outside the City Councilís jurisdiction. For these reasons we believe that electors in local government elections should concern themselves with such matters as Education, Housing, Transport and Welfare even though these and other subjects are no longer within the immediate jurisdiction of the Belfast Council. The Labour Party makes no apology for putting forward far reaching proposals for radical change. Labour Councillors will ensure that the new Belfast City Council take all the necessary steps to try and secure the implementation of these plans.
THE LEGACY The legacy of former Unionist administrations in Belfast is one of unplanned development, inadequate housing, prohibitively expensive public transport, educational services segregated by religion and by class, ghetto community development and traffic chaos. In recent years even the streets and footpaths have not been properly maintained. The Unionists had no effective answers to these problems except to cut the quality of the service, put up the prices to the public and lastly to dream up more and yet more grandiose motorway projects. Neither have the Unionists or their counterparts in the S.D.L.P. and their Republican fellow-travellers any answer to the problems which the troubles of the last few years highlighted and intensified. In particular there is now the problem of achieving an integrated population in our city and of ensuring that the generation of young people growing up at present do not engage in violence and anti-social behaviour when peace is restored. If peace is to be lasting it must be accompanied by measures to cure the disease.
LABOURíS POLICY Some of the problems facing Belfast are worldwide - the population flight from the City Centre, the strangulation of the city by the motor car, the deterioration of the quality of life by increasing levels and new sources of pollution, the unplanned sprawl of a characterless suburbia breeding its own problems of crime and delinquency. Other problems are a by-product of our divided community. Our complaint is not that we have problems but that to date no realistic attempts have been made to cope with them. Labour differs from the Unionists in that we have policies to cope with the problems. Our policies are radical and far reaching. They will offend vested interest and the conservative minded. But if they are not adopted Belfast as a city will surely die.
HOUSING Labour supports the establishment of the Housing Executive. Labour Councillors would insist that the City Council would establish a Housing Committee to consult regularly with the Housing Executive and to provide machinery by which tenants could channel complaints and queries to the Housing Executive. The Housing Committee would ensure that Belfast Citizens views on such problems as high rise flats, amenities in housing estates, house maintenance, rent levels and son on, were always before the Housing Executive.
EMPLOYMENT Unemployment is and will continue to be a serious problem for Belfast and in particular for certain areas of Belfast. Sites such as the Bog Meadow and reclaimed land on Belfast Lough are available as industrial sites. Labour councillors would insist upon attracting new industry and would press the government into giving priority to establishing industries on these sites.
THE INNER CITY Past policy is slowly turning the inner city area into an uninhabited wilderness Labour firmly believes in ensuring that thriving and healthy communities continue to exist right in the heart of the city Labour would press for the establishment of a Special Government Agency for the Rehabitation of the Inner City. This would be a Government Corporation, with extensive powers of borrowing to work in conjunction with the Housing Executive and the City Council on rehabilitating the Inner City area and ensuring that a balanced population continues to live near the city centre. This Corporation should aim at totally modernising old streets, knocking two or more old dwellings into one, "plugging on" modern bathrooms and kitchen units, closing streets to vehicular traffic. providing trees and open spaces. In many cases entirely new buildings will have to be provided hut these should be tastefully built and of varied design.
The great advantage of this kind of programme is that it results in the minimum population disturbance, ensures the use of existing amenities - churches, shops and schools, and it provides a continuing human presence in the city centre.
The corporation responsible for this programme should have a life of 10 years and should have members of the Belfast Council on its board.
HOUSING AND THE COMMUNITY PROBLEM Belfast Corporation in the past built ghettoes. At present there is an understandable tendency for people to prefer to live WITH their co-religionists. Nevertheless a large percentage of the population still live in mixed areas, or in areas in which one denomination is a decided minority. It would be a good investment for the future if money were spent in the adequate provision of welfare workers, community centres and youth leaders, etc. to ensure that as people came by degrees to live in mixed estates that truly integrated and harmonious communities are achieved. We believe that much good work in this direction has been achieved by Tenantís Organisations and that through the Tenantsí Organisations, tenants should be encouraged to look after their own estates.
TRANSPORT Belfast was built for the horse and cart traffic of the mid-nineteenth century. Yet until the terrorist campaign forced the partial closing of streets and limited parking we let anybody and everybody clutter our narrow streets without regard to the cost of congestion and lost time, in wear and tear, and in atmospheric pollution. The last councilís answer to the rising motor car population was to run down the public transport system and to embark on an enormously expensive motorway programme which, if finished - and it is doubtful, will enable traffic to move at the same speed in 1986 as it moved in 1966! At present we suffer from traffic jams at peak hours, expensive and inadequate bus services and a slow traffic flow. The result is that the motorist is unable to derive any real benefit from his car, especially for his journey to work. Merely pushing ahead with or even speeding up the motorway programme will not help. The motorway programme is merely designed to ensure that the level of congestion does not get worse. As such it is no answer to the problem of rush hour traffic congestion. Five years ago the Labour Party advocated merging Ulsterbus and the Corporation Transport and developing the Central railway scheme. These policies are now being adopted too late to offer any real benefit to the travelling public. For example the cost of introducing the Central railway has increased by three hundred per cent. since we first suggested it. This time Labour's policies must be adopted, before it's too late. Labour believes that there should be an urgent re-examination of the transport plans for Belfast. Labour would;
SHOPPING There is at present a move to suburban shopping with city centre shopping being limited to specialist articles - clothes, electrical goods and other consumer durables. The establishment of large suburban car parks and transport terminal points within the city boundary would create valuable sites for shopping areas which the city councils would be able to lease to developers. The city would derive substantial income from this.
CONSUMER PROTECTION With the constant upward trend of prices ensuring that the consumer gets value for money is more important than ever. Labour in Belfast would follow the example of Labour councils in England and establish a Fair Trading Office to deal with shoppersí complaints and ensure that price increases are firmly policed in the interest of the general public.
EDUCATION Comprehensive Education: While the rest of Britain has made enormous strides in comprehensive education, progress in Belfast has been checked by vested interests. Labour would press for an end to the evil of selection at the age of 11. There are sites in Belfast where a well-developed multi-school campus already exists, for example, Orangefield and Annadale. Labour would urge that a start be made with comprehensive education in these areas immediately. Integration: We believe that in the long run integrated education is essential if we are to have a harmonius community. The building of separate schools moreover encourages ghetto housing as families understandably like to be near their childrenís school. Labour would seek to encourage parents - particularly as new mixed areas develop - to agree to send their children to mixed schools. We are quite confident that the problem of religious instruction could be settled in a way which would be satisfactory to all the churches. Certainly we are convinced that a start should be made soon with a few pilot schemes for parents wishing to send their children to integrated schools. At present these parents have no opportunity to have their children educated in schools of their choice.
THE WELFARE SERVICES Labour will press for the provision of the best and most up-to-date welfare services - particularly in those areas which have traditionally been deprived. Much of the suffering and deprivation in our community would be avoided if people were aware of their rights. Labour would press for a survey to ensure that people in need were receiving adequate assistance. Work must be pushed ahead with the provision of Health Centres where medical services are available most of the day. In addition every effort must be made to see that those of our citizens who are aged or handicapped and unable to look after themselves are properly cared for both in the provision of visitors, home helps and welfare workers, and where necessary through the fitting of their homes with such aids as will enable them to feel that they are independent and self-reliant members of the community.
LEGAL SERVICES Full welfare services must ensure the readily availability of legal advice. It is particularly important that citizens know their legal entitlement Labour would press the Council, together with other organisations, to establish advice centres, which would be available to provide the citizen with advice and information on all matters affecting his rights and entitlements.
YOUTH SERVICE An enormous problem will exist in rehabilitating many of the young people of our city after the tragic experience of recent years. We believe that the City Council should press the government and private resources to finance a Youth Service. Such a service would seek to bring young people from both communities and all classes together and make it possible for the youth of our city to channel their creative energies, courage and idealism into areas which would help make them into useful citizens. Such a Service should end for all times the soul destroying waste of our youth. Such a Youth Service could be co-ordinated and supervised by a Council of Youth bringing together all those interested in the welfare and development of young people. "Unemployed Youth" should become a term of the past.
Belfast enjoys a magnificent setting. Unfortunately we have in the past destroyed much of our inheritance. An all out campaign should be undertaken to clean up the rivers which flow into the Lagan and the Lagan itself should be utilised as an amenity. The river should be cleaned and through the use of weirs kept full all the time. The riverside should be used for a recreational area and in time boating and other pursuits should again be possible on the Lagan.
Cavehill is another amenity whose value is largely ignored. The Belfast Castle - Hazelwood area should be fully developed as a recreational area, with playing fields, dance halls, swimming pool and Belfast Castle itself could be used as an outdoor sports centre.
In the residential areas of Belfast much could be done to improve their general appearance and the amenities available especially for children. The increased provision of swings and playgrounds is to be welcomed. Inflatable open-air swimming pools could also be provided in many areas during the summer months.
MUNICIPAL ENTERPRISES Labour is fully convinced of the scope for further enterprise in the Belfast area. Belfast has for years successfully run a Gas Undertaking and will continue to do so. There is every reason to believe that the Council could successfully run other enterprises, particularly where they provide amenities such as shops, cafes, public houses, skating rinks and dance halls. Labour would press for a vigorous Parks, Recreation and Amenities Committee which would develop municipally owned trading and services in areas where private enterprise is failing to provide adequate services.
YOUR LABOUR COUNCILLORS Your Labour councillors would press for council meetings to be held in the evening so that all sections of the community would be able to serve on the Councils. We believe that the reduced workload of the Councils following reorganisation destroys whatever justification there was for holding meetings during the day. Your Labour Councillors would maintain a regular ward service and advice centre open to all electors in the ward.
LABOUR AND THE FUTURE We as a Party have steadfastly held to the view that all creeds in Belfast, as in the rest of Northern Ireland, can come together to work, by peaceful means, and as equal citizens for a prosperous and just society within the United Kingdom. We stand opposed to the violence, sectarianism and discrimination which have disfigured our Province and our City. We believe that all citizens of our great city, irrespective of their political views can come together to make Belfast a peaceful and prosperous city in which we can all take a pride.
A SUMMARY OF LABOUR'S PROPOSALS
Labour councillors would press the council to:
YOUR LABOUR COUNCILLORS ARE COMMITTED
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