NI will suffer financially over council reform delay

The delay over council reform is a thundering disgrace, particularly at a time of big financial cuts .  For a newly appointed NIO minister to intervene in his second week in office to rebuke the Executive  for in effect, maladministration is utter humilation. These matters are supposed to be in local hands for goodness sake and here we have a – I was going to say – a direct rule minister forced to act like a colonial governor in the 1950s. It can only weaken Northern  Ireland’s hand in crucial discussions with Whitehall over the details of the block grant.

The postponement for another electoral cycle if it happens, also puts on hold the reform of the administration of education and to some extent health, the two biggest spenders. Edwin Poots promises “a new service delivery model within three months” What held him back up to now? Or is he being disingenuous, his fear being that the boundary review may result in Belfast finally going nationalist? If so, he should at least be honest about it.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London