News 28th September 2021

Open Local Government Workshops – Summary & Next Steps

by Connor McLean

Written by Lucy Keown

NIOGN ran six workshops across Northern Ireland, as part of our Open Local Government project, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Great Ideas Fund. The purpose of the project is to support local improvements to transparency, accountability and participation that enable people to have their priorities addressed and build a better relationship between local government bodies and citizens.

The workshops were split into geographical areas, including Greater Belfast, Greater Derry/Londonderry, South West, South East, Ards N Down & Lisburn CC, and North East, to cater to the eleven council areas in NI. Two took place in June 2021, with the remaining four in August 2021. There were eighty-four people in attendance across the six workshops.

The main topics discussed included the following:

  • Greater Belfast: Lack of transparency in decision making/meetings/reports, lack of access to public information
  • Greater Derry/Londonderry: Lack of accountability of representatives, lack of record keeping of meetings and difficulty accessing these
  • South West: Issues linked to rural location, problems caused by bureaucracy and red tape, lack of interest and action on climate change, inaccessible documentation, lack of engagement or consultation in planning decisions
  • Ards & N Down, Lisburn CC: Planning issues, lack of community engagement, environmental issues, problems with recycling and waste
  • North East: Difficulty in accessing information, lack of council engagement, potential citizen’s’ budget, public/private contracts/open contracting
  • South East: Lack of communication and trust in local council, inaccessible information, bureaucracy, blocks to FOI requests.

After each workshop, we emailed all attendees asking them to fill in our post-event survey, which 29% of attendees have now completed. We also encouraged attendees to join NIOGN as a member, to stay up to date on our news and get involved in future projects.

We are currently following up on eight different local issues identified in the workshops, talking to the community groups and relevant statutory bodies about how we can work on the issue together, to improve openness and transparency. The NIOGN Board will then review the recommendations and agree on areas of concern for us to support over the coming year, until the project completion in September 2022.

We would like to thank all who took part in these workshops and engaged with us on local open government issues. Please consider joining our network, to stay in touch with NIOGN even if we can’t work with you on this project – more information here

Thank you to Newry 2020 who were our partner for the South East workshop, and Collaboration for Change who partnered with us for the North East workshop.

If you would like to contact us about the Open Local Government project, please email Lucy at lucy@opengovni.org