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MEABC’s decisive response to jobs crisis heralded with prestigious UK award

The key role of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (MEABC) in helping secure the legacy of Wrightbus in Ballymena despite the company going into administration last year, has been recognised by a prestigious awards ceremony honouring local government across the UK.

Council was named the winner in the Best Innovation/ Demand Management Initiative category of the APSE Service Awards, which honour the contribution of local government frontline services and frontline service workers to public services delivered at a neighbourhood level by local councils.

In October 2019, MEABC maximised its role as the local authority to support the brokering of a deal for a new buyer, to ensure Mid and East Antrim’s proud manufacturing heritage was protected, as well as safeguarding the livelihoods of hundreds of our citizens.

Since it was taken over by Bamford Bus Company, Wrightbus has been on a recruitment drive and the factory now employs 400 people, and in recent weeks, the Department for Infrastructure announced the rollout of a multi-million pound contract for the supply of hydrogen and electric cell buses by the company to revolutionise Northern Ireland’s public transport system.

In addition to being awarded the prestigious title, MEABC, the only Northern Ireland council recognised in the awards, was also shortlisted as a finalist in a further five categories, including Overall Council of the Year.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said afterwards:

“These awards recognise the best and most innovative local authorities in the UK and with over 100 organisations taking part, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has shown that it is leading the way in championing the prosperity of all its people.

“Despite our borough being massively impacted by a number of severe economic shocks in recent years, with the closure of JTI Gallaher and Michelin among them, Council demonstrated winning innovation, by providing leadership and strategy, and encouraging mutually beneficial relationships with both public and private sector partners to the benefit of local citizens.

“I congratulate all those involved in ensuring Mid and East Antrim Borough Council continues to be among the top-performing local government bodies throughout the United Kingdom.”

Announcing the winners during a virtual awards ceremony this week, APSE Chief Executive Paul O’Brien said:

“After a year of such turmoil for our communities every finalist and every winner thoroughly deserves to be recognised for the fantastic work they do at the frontline of local public services. I commend you all.” APSE National Chair, Cllr Mark Pengelly, added:

“The health pandemic has demonstrated that local council frontline services are the fourth emergency service, supporting people of all ages with services from parks to school meals, from collecting bins to caring for older people. Today is their day. Congratulations to you all."

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