The government of the U.K is divided into 3 parts that have responsibilities for different areas of the U.K and for introducing new legislation and general management for those areas. These 3 parts of government are: The Local government, the Regional government and the National government. Even though the U.K is part of the European Union and has to abide by E.U laws and regulations, this is not considered to be part of the main levels of government as it is an international form of government that involves other countries in Europe. The levels of government are shown in the diagram below.
Councils - i.e Belfast City Council.
Devolved Government - i.e Northern Ireland Assembly.
Central Government - i.e Houses of Parliament.
European Union - i.e European Parliament.
Local Government - Council - Belfast City Council.
Councils are the lowest form of government in the U.K. Within Northern Ireland there are a total of 26 councils. As Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland it has it’s own council. This is Belfast City Council. Local governments within Northern Ireland are undergoing reform in the number of total councils there are. From April 1st 2015 the number of councils will fall from 26 down to 11 new super councils. This will see Belfast City Council taking responsibility for some areas that were under the control of previous councils and be responsible for a wider population area.
Belfast City Council holds it’s meetings in Belfast City Hall and is home to 51 councillors that are elected representatives from the districts they stood for. There are a total of 9 electoral districts within the Belfast area where candidates are put forward for election by the various political parties in Northern Ireland. The system of voting in the council election is by the single Transferable Vote. However, with the formation of the new super councils, the number of councillors that can be elected to Belfast City Council will rise to 60. The recent council elections in May of 2014 saw 60 new councillors be elected to the council. However, they will sit in shadow form until the formation of the new council in April of 2015. All councils across Northern Ireland have a leader and deputy leader. These are the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor. The current Lord Mayor is Nichola Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Deputy Lord Mayor is Maire Hendron of the Alliance party. The table below shows the number of councillors each party has at Belfast city council. The two biggest parties being the mainly Republican, Sinn Fein and the mainly Unionist, Democratic Unionist Party.
Responsibilities of Belfast City Council.
Each council has the responsibility for the management and running of each of the electoral districts within that council area. This is achieved by providing services and representation to the population within the Belfast area. The provision of services that Belfast City council has the responsibility to implement include: waste collection and disposal.
registration of births, deaths and marriages, etc.
However, there are service areas where the councils are not responsible for. Some of these include: education.
fire and police services.
Committees within Belfast City Council.
Within Belfast City Council there are currently 6 committees that are chaired by 20 councillors each from across all the political parties. However, only 5 councillors need to be present for a committee to do business. The job of these committees and the councillors within are to meet and to review, scrutinise and make decisions on the responsibilities of that committee. The 6 committees are: The development committee - This committee is responsible for the regeneration and development of the Belfast area. Health and environmental services committee - This is responsible for the public health, waste management, building and environmental control within the Belfast area. Licensing committee - This committee is responsible for all legislation regarding licensing, entertainment licences, permits and of the trading of alcohol in Belfast through the opening and closing hours of bars and nightclubs.
Parks and leisure committee - This is responsible for the planning, delivery and management of all parks, leisure centres and cemeteries within Belfast. Strategic policy and resources committee - This committee is responsible for the development of the corporate plan for Belfast. It is also responsible for the allocation of resources for Belfast city council and to promote equality and diversity within Belfast. Town planning committee - This committee is responsible for giving permission to carry out any development and construction plans within Belfast.
Departments within the Council.
Belfast City Council is also home to 7 departments. Some of these departments have responsibilities similar to the council committees. The 7 departments within Belfast City Council are: Chief Executive - This department supports the Lord Mayor, deputy lord mayor and councillors in their roles within the council. Corporate Services - This department is responsible for the financial services, human resources and information systems within the council. Development department - Has the responsibility for the economic development, tourism, culture and heritage etc. for the Belfast area. This includes the development of St Georges Market and the management of the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall. Health and environment services - This department works to promote the safety and well-being of everyone within Belfast. They are responsible for promoting waste reduction and increasing recycling within Belfast. Improvements department - This department is responsible for providing a single improvement agenda for the Belfast area. Parks and Leisure - This is responsible for the promotion of attractions like Belfast Zoo, Belfast castle and Belfast Botanic for tourism and is responsible for the maintenance of these places.
Regional Government - Northern Ireland Assembly.
The second level of government in the U.K are the regional governments. This is the devolved government for that region. The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved government of Northern Ireland and is located at Stormont Estate. There are 2 other devolved governments within the U.K. One located in Edinburgh, Scotland that is home to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly Wales that is located in Cardiff, Wales. The current Northern Ireland Assembly which was formed in May of 2011 is home to 108 MLAs from the five main political parties in Northern Ireland along with some other smaller parties too. The two largest parties in the Assembly are The D.U.P and Sinn Fein. This allows them to take the office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The current First Minister is Peter Robinson of the D.U.P and the current Deputy First Minister is Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein. Even though the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have different titles, they are equal to each other in the power that they have. This is known as “Primus inter pares” or “First amongst equals”. The Assembly is elected every four years under the single transferable vote, where each political party nominates members for election to Stormont and the people cast their vote by marking the ballot paper 1,2,3,etc. There are a total of 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland and every constituency elects 6 MLAs from that constituency to make up the 108 MLAs that sit at Stormont.
Responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its MLAs. The responsibilities of the N.I Assembly mainly revolve around passing new laws and legislation on current devolved matters. These are the matters that were transferred from Westminster to Stormont. Some of these areas include: Health
Agriculture and Rural Development.
Policing and Justice.
There are areas of government that the Northern Ireland Assembly does not have responsibility for. These are broken down into two groups: Reserved matters and excepted matters. Reserved matters are areas of government that are available to be devolved to the regional governments at the discretion of the Westminster Parliament. Excepted matters are areas of government that are never going to be considered for devolution to regional governments. Some of the reserved matters in the case of the Northern Ireland Assembly are: National minimum wage.
Import and export control.
Some of the Excepted matters include:
Immigration and nationality.
Elected representatives for Stormont are called Members of the Legislative Assembly or MLA for short. It is the job of each MLA to scrutinise, raise issues, vote on new laws and put forward questions to ministers of the departments in the Executive during sessions in the Assembly. They also have the job of being part of the committees that examine the work of the government department, to discuss new policies and laws and also hold the minister in charge to account. Each MLAs job first and foremost is to represent their constituents that voted them into the Assembly.
Departments of the Assembly and the Executive.
There are currently 12 departments situated at Stormont. These are the devolved government areas transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly y from Westminster. Each department is headed by a minister who was appointed by the political parties in the Assembly. This is done by using the D’Hondt system. The department of J...