Other News In Brief

Green Party Cllr Rachel Woods To Stand Down From Ards and North Down Council

The Green Party has announced that councillor for Holywood and Clandeboye, Rachel Woods, will stand down from Ards and North Down Council at the end of October.

The former MLA and Green Party NI representative of the Borough said she will look back on her time with great fondness and miss it immensely.

Rachel said: "It has been my honour and privilege to serve local people as a Councillor and MLA for seven years. I have wholly dedicated my time and energy to people, communities and our local environment and I will never forget the experiences and opportunities offered to me through being your elected representative.

"As an MLA, I brought legislative change to a raft of Bills and Acts, on Stalking, Sexual Offences, Domestic Abuse and within the hospitality industry. I am one of the few representatives to have brought a Private Members Bill introducing life saving legislation for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, for paid leave from work as a day one employment right. I also brought in changes to the Domestic Abuse Act, adding in protections for children and young people and introducing a legal aid waiver for victims of abuse going through the courts. I exposed the level of pollution in our waters and have consistently fought for improved biodiversity, environmental protection and a fair and just society where rights and voices are respected and promoted.

"It was and always will be my immense privilege to serve for the people of Holywood and Clandeboye, and for North Down, for the Green Party NI and it is with a heavy heart that I leave this position."

Green Party Leader Mal O'Hara said: "The Green Party team in North Down has achieved so much, despite our size. Rachel has made such an impact locally, getting the council to declare a Climate Emergency in the Borough, introduced a ban on single use plastics internally, brought a water refill scheme, ensured sanitary bins were installed in public toilets, lobbied for the living wage, against further privatisation of our services, challenged our planning system, and supported all those that have been in contact for assistance to her utmost ability. She has consistently challenged and questioned, lobbying for much needed change in how we manage our local environment and our services to community, fighting for a greener, cleaner and fairer society. As Greens we are sad to see Rachel move on but we know she will continue to make positive change."

UUP Welcomes MEA Action On Domestic Violence

The Ulster Unionist Party has welcomed has welcomed a motion brought by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council that aims to address domestic violence.

UUP Councillor for Braid, Alan Barr, said: "As the nights close in over the next few weeks, there is a sense of coziness about. However, the darker nights sadly bring about an increase in domestic violence in the home. This is why I welcome the recent notice of motion in the council chamber. The notice of motion commits the Council to work with other agencies to bring about the essential societal change required so that women and girls do not have to live in fear."

Domestic violence is described as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour by a family member or carer. Examples are isolation from friends and family, financial abuse, continually being degraded, gaslighting, and physical and sexual abuse.

The Councillor continued, "I was pleased that my amendment was accepted, which commits Council to work with partner agencies so that domestic violence against men and boys is recognised and tackled. This is because some men suffering from domestic violence believe that there is a stigma attached to it. Sometimes, men feel that they will not be believed or they will be seen as weak if they report domestic violence. I would encourage any man suffering from domestic violence to report it to the police. If they feel that they don't want to talk to the police, the Men's Advisory Project is there to help."

Over the next few months, Councillor Barr will be taking a keen interest in ensuring that the motion is implemented.

Alliance Welcomes Review Of Taxi Fares

The Alliance Party has welcomed news that the Department for Infrastructure is to conduct a review of taxi fares.

Infrastructure spokesperson David Honeyford MLA said that drivers and operators have suffered massive increases in costs in recent years, including insurance and fuel, with many saying the current fare structure has forced them out of the industry.

He continued: "I recently wrote to the Permanent Secretary at the DfI calling on him to act now to rescue the taxi industry from financial dire straits.

"A DfI consultation on a revised fare structure was initially announced by then-Minister, Nichola Mallon, in September 2021. More than two years later, a decision has yet to be taken on the revision of taxi fares. The long-overdue review of the taxi tariff has led to drivers quitting the business, leaving many without access to transport.

"In its reply to my letter, the Department said a decision was taken in June to defer the issue and revisit it in the autumn. A review is currently underway and the Permanent Secretary will then consider his decision.

"I hope to see a speedy resolution to the taxi fares saga in time for the Christmas season, when taxis are the lifeblood of the festive economy."

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