“It is the Executive’s responsibility to make the decision on the future of the reform programme for local government”

A “qualified yes” is how the BBC characterised NILGA’s response to the Northern Ireland Environment Minister’s question on funding the reform of local government – or, as NILGA President, Cllr John Mathews, put it, Poots’ “exit strategy”.

But, having seen a copy of the letter containing NILGA’s response to the NI Environment Minister, it’s worth noting that they have made a number of pointed remarks about the NI Executive’s role.

From the letter from NILGA President John Mathews

As I have reiterated in recent letters to you the work taken forward by local government on improvement and collaboration provides a good foundation on which to secure significant efficiencies, to realise citizen expectation of local government service improvements and to contribute to the aim of creating “strong, dynamic local government in Northern Ireland. It is vital that this momentum for change is not lost. That said there are a number of issues outside our area of responsibility but within the remit of the Executive which, must be addressed to allow the reform process to move on.

These include-

  • Introducing the required legislation for establishing the boundaries for the 11 new district councils and the reorganisation legislation to provide modernised powers for the new councils.
  • Resolving the rates convergence issue of amalgamating councils.
  • Ensuring the transferring functions result in no additional costs to local government at the point of transfer.
  • Ensuring the necessary practical arrangements are in place for example Land and Property Services systems and processes are aligned to the 11 council model.

I would re-emphasise that without the resolution of these issues the reform process cannot move forward. It is the Executive’s responsibility to make the decision on the future of the reform programme for local government. We therefore call on you and your executive colleagues to take these decisions quickly and to provide now the necessary clarity. [added emphasis]

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  • The Impartial Observer

    Typical slavish reporting by the media! We had plenty of that over the publication of PPS 21 on Tuesday, not least the claim that the definition of “Ribbon Development” has been relaxed from 6 dwellings in a row to 3. Talking to friends in the Planning Service it seems that 3 has always been the threshold number and the 6 dwelling definition only existed in the void that lies between Poots’ ears! The new policy is being portrayed as a major relaxation of rural planning policy when in reality it is a minor change but the DUP wanted to sell it as being good for rural people so they spun it and people like Mike McKimm swallowed it whole!

    The latest rumour going around the NICS is that another DUP reshuffle is imminent and Edwin is apparently in line to be made Finance Minister! Make of this what you will but the reaction of many covil servants upon hearing this was to seek out a darkened room to lie down in!!

  • Freya

    Edwin is apparently in line to be made Finance Minister…

    O M G !

  • The Raven

    ““It is the Executive’s responsibility to make the decision on the future of the reform programme for local government””

    …..which is why nothing will happen til 2015.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    What a shambles, years of preparation and still not ready. Another example of the Assembly’s failure to achieve anything.

    Maybe the councils should use the next 4 years to cut out the waste and overstaffing that is prevalent throughout our local government before considering the change.

  • Local Goverment Officer

    I’m interested to hear your take on waste. Do you mean we should concentrate more on waste disposal from the public which consistently refuses to cut back on THEIR waste, thus escalating costs to the ratepayer…?

  • Leaving aside that the 11 Councils are still too small to create the necessary savings that make this reorganisation worthwhile, it is a nonsense to change the councils to 11 with extra powers, which means a reduction in powers (one would imagine) of departmental responsibilities, and keep 12 departments and 108 Assembly members. Looking at Councils in England, or the Scottish Parliament, they survive very well on much less. In the case of large unitary English Councils they run effectively with a CEO and board, with elected politicians providing policy and accountability in respect of service delivery.

  • Drumlin Rock

    using the mainland as an example might not always be wise, they have so many different systems there which have varying degrees of success and local popularity.

  • aquifer

    Yep the DUP do like to play musical chairs.

    Have we heard Willie McCrea yet?

  • kevin

    it is up to the ratepayers to have a say on aht suits them best do you not think as we seem to ahve no say since the coalition was set up
    We cannot even ahve a say on where our services should be based however me thinks another stitch u with everoyne tking the credit is about to hapen

  • Brian Walker

    I genuinely ask as I haven’t been following the debate closely What benefit will the people derive from council amalgamation at a time of spending cuts, when Stormont itself is the size of an English metropolitan council?

  • kevin

    Yup and the range off advisory bodies grows by the day

  • Frustrated Democrat

    That is one example, there are many others starting with absenteeism, money spent on councillors expenses (all trips abroad should be cancelled for the next 2 years), funding for quasi community groups, capital expenditure on useless fancy offices and other facilities. In other words it should be run like a commercial enterprise not a social group for free loaders paid for by tax/rate payers.

  • redhandobserver

    Local District Council re-organisation.

    Why not do the obvious & save the six counties?
    No more patch work quilt.

    Has anyone bought a map recently?
    You will see that the major areas highlighted are the current 26 council areas.
    The county demarcation lines are largely ignored.
    In another few decades the counties will feature less & less and possibly disappear.

    If the re-organisation goes ahead to 11 or 15 new districts, then these will feature on future maps.
    The disappearance of the six county demarcation lines will be accelerated.

    HAS NO ONE CONSIDERED THE OBVIOUS.
    Outside Belfast, just have 6 Local Council Areas
    Yes one based in each county!!!!!!
    Now that would be logical, sensible & save even more money in the running of our local district councils.

    Carve up of local districts should not be artificial, and should not be solely driven by party politics.

    And yes, also save the six counties on future maps.
    What arguments can be advanced against such a simple idea?

    Additional Simplification to be incorporated
    Roads Services Areas ( and others) to be redrawn to match the new local council areas
    Take this unique opportunity to really simplify the whole administration of our tiny 1.6m population.
    Local Council areas and the Admin. Areas of Government Departments should be harmonised. The criss-crossing of areas of responsibility is bewildering to some residents.