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Equality and diversity

Rural Needs Impact Assessment: Dual Language Street Signs policy

Published in November 2021


Contents
Section 1 - Defining the activity subject to Section 1(1) of the Rural Needs Act (NI) 2016
Section 2 – Understanding the impact of the policy, strategy, plan or public service
Section 3 – Identifying the social and economic needs of persons in rural areas
Section 4 – Considering the social and economic needs of persons in rural areas
Section 5 – Influencing the policy, strategy, plan or public service
Section 6 – Documenting and recording


Section 1 - Defining the activity subject to Section 1(1) of the Rural Needs Act (NI) 2016

1A. Name of public authority

Belfast City Council


1B. Please provide a short title, which describes the activity being undertaken by the public authority that is subject to the Section 1(1) of the Rural Needs Act (NI) 2016.

Dual Language Street Signs Policy


1C. Please indicate which category the activity specified in Section 1B above relates to.

Activity Category
Developing a Policy Strategy Plan
Adopting a Policy Strategy Plan
Implementing a Policy Strategy Plan
Revising a Policy Strategy Plan
Designing a public service
Delivering a public service

Belfast City Council's activity relates to revising a policy.


1D. Please provide the official title (if any) of the policy, strategy, plan for public service document or initiative relating to the category indicated in Section 1C.

Belfast City Council first adopted a policy for the erection of dual language street signs in 1998.

On 7 January 2021, Belfast City Council ratified a decision taken by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on 23 October 2020 to adopt a revised policy in relation to dual language street signs.

The proposed policy reflects the council’s Language Strategy, which was adopted in 2018 and was developed to promote linguistic diversity in the city. The proposed policy incorporates both domestic and international frameworks that aim to protect and promote regional and minority languages. Working within the context of these frameworks, the revised policy aims: To promote regional and minority language rights, and to benefit and enhance the diverse linguistic communities within the city, through the adoption of dual language street signs as and where appropriate.


1E. Please provide details of the aims and/or objectives of the policy, strategy, plan or public service.

The proposed Dual Language Street Signs Policy aims:

  • To promote regional and minority language rights, and to benefit and enhance the diverse linguistic communities within the city, through the adoption of dual language street signs as and where appropriate.

The council is consulting on the key changes to the Dual Language Street Signs Policy.

This section summarises the proposed key changes to the council’s 1998 Dual Language Street Signs Policy.

Applying for a dual language street sign

The new policy proposes that only an occupier or occupiers of the street in question, an elected Belfast City Council member representing the District Electoral Area in which the street is located or a developer may apply. The proposed policy removes the requirement that an application must be submitted with a petition showing the support of not less than one third of the occupiers of the street in question.

Threshold for further consideration of the application

The policy proposes that the process must be started by an individual or group of individuals submitting a request to council. This will then trigger a survey consultation with a minimum of 15 per cent of the occupiers of the street required to support the application.

A report will then be brought to committee for consideration (instead of being accompanied by a recommendation for approval). The council will continue to have residual discretion.

Any decision relating to the erection of a second nameplate in the city centre (the “business core”) will in addition be subject to a wider public consultation to reflect the community of users.

The policy will cover the corporately designated Gaeltacht Quarter until such time as a policy which may contain specific proposals in respect of a bilingual strategy have been adopted.

Survey responses

The proposed policy removes the stipulation that an occupier is deemed not to be in favour of the application if they do not return a survey. (In practice, the committee will continue to receive a breakdown of the survey results indicating the number of responses in favour, the number of responses not in favour, the number of responses that indicated no preference and the number of responses that were not returned.)

Impacts on equality, good relations and rural needs

The proposed policy process will require Section 75 scrutiny of each application to identify and inform the council of any equality, good relations or rural needs implications. The initial assessment (which will include Section 75 and rural needs determinations) will rely on the information submitted on the application form, local data and local knowledge as well as the survey results. Further assessment, which may include a screening/EQIA will be applied where necessary.  

Residual discretion

The council has always retained a discretion to depart from the policy. However, the current policy does not outline the factors that the council will consider when exercising such residual discretion.

The proposed policy includes a new section that describes what factors may be considered when the council exercises that residual discretion, namely:

  • the views of the occupiers of the street;
  • the result of the assessment for each application to identify and inform the council of any equality of opportunity, good relations or rural needs implications;
  • consideration of the local context of the application;
  • any other council policies or strategies related to the application; and
  • all material considerations relating to the application.

This means that the council can take into account the specific circumstances of each application when determining the outcome and that, according to a report to Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in April 2021:

The exercise of the Committee’s residual discretion will ensure that second language street signs will not be erected in a manner which could undermine Good Relations at a neighbourhood level.

Process

When the council receives an application, there is a process in place for creating and sending the surveys to the occupiers of the street in question. The survey will include the proposed translation of the street name into the second language, which is arranged by the council from an appropriate, independent and competent institution. The occupiers have one month to respond to the survey. The survey results are then collated by council officers, and a report is prepared for each application that will go to committee.

Decision-making

The committee then has to consider the report along with the survey results and any other relevant information to make a decision. The committee’s decision will be based on a simple majority. The vote is then ratified at the next full council meeting.

As with all decisions, the decision may be subject to reconsideration (also known as call-in) if 15 per cent of the council's Elected Representatives provide a requisition form to the Chief Executive stating that the decision was either:

  • not arrived at after a proper consideration of the relevant facts or issues or
  • that the decision would disproportionately adversely affect any section of the inhabitants of the district.

If the requisition states wholly or in part that the decision would disproportionately affect adversely any section of the inhabitants of the district, the council is required to obtain the opinion of a practising barrister or solicitor before reconsidering the decision.

If the practising barrister or solicitor is of the opinion that there is merit to reconsidering the decision, the council must vote again and the reconsidered decision will require a qualified majority of at least 80 per cent of Elected Representatives present voting in favour of the original decision.

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Section 2 – Understanding the impact of the policy, strategy, plan or public service

2A. Is the policy, strategy, plan or public service likely to impact on people in rural areas?

Yes
No.

No. This policy is not likely to impact on people in rural areas.

If the response is 'No', go to Section 2E.


2B. Please explain how the policy, strategy, plan or public service is likely to impact on people in rural areas.

How the policy, strategy, plan or public service is likely to impact on people in rural areas
Not applicable

2C. If the policy, strategy, plan or public service is likely to impact on people in rural areas differently from people in urban areas, please explain how it is likely to impact on people in rural areas differently.

Explain if the policy, strategy, plan or public service is likely to impact on people in rural areas differently from people in urban areas
Not applicable

2D. Please indicate which of the following rural policy areas the policy, strategy, plan or public service is likely to primarily impact on.

Rural policy Impact
Yes No
Rural businesses  
Rural tourism  
Rural housing  
Jobs or employment in rural areas  
Education or training in rural areas  
Broadband or mobile communications in rural areas  
Transport services or infrastructure in rural areas  
Poverty in rural areas  
Deprivation in rural areas  
Rural crime or community safety  
Rural development  
Agri-environment  
Other (please state)  

If the response to Section 2A was 'Yes', go to Section 3A.


2E. Please explain why the policy, strategy, plan or public service is NOT likely to impact on people in rural areas.

The proposed Dual Language Street Signs Policy is presented for consultation in conjunction with a draft EQIA and this draft Rural Needs Assessment.

We do not believe that the revisions to this policy will impact on people in rural areas. We seek your views on this matter.

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Section 3 – Identifying the social and economic needs of persons in rural areas

3A. Has the public authority taken steps to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas that are relevant to the policy, strategy, plan or public service?

Yes
No     

Yes. Belfast City Council has taken steps to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas that are relevant to this policy.

If the response is 'No', go to Section 3E.


3B. Please indicate which methods or information sources were used by the public authority to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas.

Indicate methods or information sources used by the public authority to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas
Consultation with rural stakeholders yes
Consultation with other organisations yes
Surveys or questionnaires                                yes
Published statistics 
Research papers
Other publications
Other methods or information sources (include details in Question 3C)

3C. Please provide details of the methods and information sources used to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas including relevant dates, names of organisations, titles of publications, website references, details of surveys or consultations undertaken.

Provide details of the methods and information sources used to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas including relevant dates, names of organisations, titles of publications, website references, details of surveys or consultations undertaken.
This draft Rural Needs Assessment will be part of the major consultation of the proposed Dual Language Street Signs Policy and the EQIA.

3D. Please provide details of the social and economic needs of people in rural areas which have been identified by the public authority.

Provide details of the social and economic needs of people in rural areas which have been identified by the public authority
This is not applicable.

If the response to Section 3A was 'Yes', go to Section 4A.


3E. Please explain why no steps were taken by the public authority to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas.

Explain why no steps were taken by the public authority to identify the social and economic needs of people in rural areas

This consultation is considering the impacts on a range of existing and potential stakeholders.  We do not believe that it will impact on the rural community.  We believe this will have no direct impact on rural areas. We seek your views on this matter.

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Section 4 – Considering the social and economic needs of persons in rural areas

4A. Please provide details of the issues considered in relation to the social and economic needs of people in rural areas.

Provide details of the issues considered in relation to the social and economic needs of people in rural areas
This consultation is considering the impacts on a range of existing and potential stakeholders.  We do not believe that this policy review presents any issues in relation to the social and economic needs of people in rural areas. We believe this will have no direct impact on rural areas. We seek your views on this matter.

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Section 5 – Influencing the policy, strategy, plan or public service

5A. Has the development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy, strategy or plan, or the design or delivery of the public service, been influenced by the rural needs identified?

Yes      
No            

Yes. The development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy has been influenced by the rural needs identified.

If the response is 'No', go to Section 5C.


5B. Please explain how the development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy, strategy or plan, or the design or delivery of the Public Service, has been influenced by the rural needs identified.

Explain how the development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy has been influenced by the rural needs identified
This is not applicable

If the response to Section 5A was 'Yes', go to Section 6A.


5C. Please explain why the development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy, strategy or plan, or the design or the delivery of the Public Service, has NOT been influenced by the rural needs identified.

Explain why the development, adoption, implementation or revising of the policy has not been influenced by the rural needs identified
This is not applicable

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Section 6 – Documenting and recording

6A. Please tick to confirm that the RNIA template will be retained by the public authority and relevant information on the Section 1 activity compiled in accordance with paragraph 6.7 of the guidance.

Confirmation statement

I confirm that the RNIA template will be retained and relevant information compiled.

Documenting and recording table
Rural Needs Impact Assessment records Details
Rural Needs Impact Assessment undertaken by Stella Gilmartin
Position or grade Equality Consultant, Gilmartin Consulting 
Division or branch  
Signature  
Date 9 November 2021
Rural Needs Impact Assessment approved by  
Position or grade  
Division or branch  
Signature  
Date  

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