The outgoing Mayor of Larne is urging locals to get involved in consultations over supercouncil service provision to ensure Larne gets the services it requires.
Cllr Martin Wilson, who will relinquish his chain of office on March 31, says that while the reform of local government will give more power to communities, it is important that local residents get involved in consultations on community planning from the outset.
He told The Times: “The community is getting a great deal of power under the new system and there will be events coming up around community planning and consultations.
“I would encourage people to get involved. If they don’t voice their opinion then it will be more difficult to come back later and say that people in Larne have lost out. We need to say what we require and the services we need from the start.”
Cllr Wilson, who will be the last ever Mayor of Larne Borough Council, says that while the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim will be responsible for a larger area and will therefore have to prioritise the events that they can attend, local groups should continue to issue invitations.
Reflecting on his own year in office, Cllr Wilson commented: “It’s a great privilege at any stage to be Mayor, but to be Mayor for the final year of Larne Borough Council’s existence takes on an extra significance.
“Change has to happen and we understand that, local government reform has been a long time coming.
“In Larne there is a great community spirit and I don’t think it will be lost due to the Council being amalgamated.
“The new MEA Chief Executive and the councillors are very much engaged in making sure that no-one feels left out.”
Cllr Wilson says that during his year as Mayor, he has been welcomed with open arms by all sides of the community.
He continued: “I have been warmly received across the borough which is very heartening and has reinforced my belief about how good a community we have here in Larne.
“I have been right across the community geographically, religiously and culturally and I have had a pleasant experience and have done my best.”
During his time in office, Cllr Wilson wholeheartedly participated in a range of community initiatives. These included a fundraising “Walk a mile in my shoes” event for his chosen charity, PIPS, when he and other male walkers strutted their stuff in high heels.
Reflecting on the work of charities such as PIPS, Cllr Wilson commented: “PIPS has been very dear to my heart. Even during my time as Mayor there were up to a dozen suicides in the borough. That’s a dozen families directly affected. The impact upon them is huge.
“The work that PIPS do trying to help those families come to terms with bereavement and to help those contemplating suicide before it happens is a difficult job but it’s done with such passion.
“I’m impressed by the commitment of Carlee and the team and they are fully deserving of anything I have done to help their work.
“I will present PIPS with their cheque on March 31 and while we don’t yet know the total raised it will be into the thousands of pounds.”
Throughout March, Larne Borough Council will hold a series of events to mark the end of the Council, including freedom ceremonies, tree planting ceremonies and recognition ceremonies.
The recognition ceremonies will see 75 people from all walks of life honoured for their contributions to the life of the borough, one for every year of the existence of Larne Borough Council.
While Cllr Wilson was not elected to sit on the new supercouncil, the caretaker at St Anthony’s Church and Parish Hall insists he will remain involved in local politics. He stated: “I will still be involved in politics with the SDLP as a local representative and continue to keep a keen interest. It is my intention to seek re-election for MEA for the next Council term.
“I would like to thank everyone in the community groups, the representatives, everyone who has been so very generous during my time as Mayor.
“I have had a great year and a great experience which I really enjoyed and I’m looking forward to the next 30 days as we come to the end of an era for Larne Borough Council.”