Committee Criticises Department For Lack of Urgency Over Local Government Reform

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 19 April 2012

Reference: ENV 08/11/12

At its meeting today (Thursday 19 April) the Assembly Committee for the Environment criticised the Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood MLA, and his Department for showing a lack of urgency over implementing local government reform.

The Minister attended the meeting to brief the Committee on the processes the Department of Environment plans to use to implement the reform, which will see the number of local councils reduced from 26 to 11.

Committee Chair Anna Lo MLA said: “The Committee believes that central government - and specifically the Department of the Environment - needs to build confidence with local councils and the public that the reform will happen by showing clear leadership, commitment and support.

“Today we heard that the Minister plans to make the Transition Committees, designed to make the process of councils coming together easier, mandatory in 2013.  We believe the best way to demonstrate certainty in the process and show clear leadership would be to make them mandatory much sooner.

“Representation on the key decision making body, the Regional Transition Committee, is also causing us concern. The proposed approach allows only the Chairperson from each Voluntary Transition Committee to sit on this Committee.  We believe this puts the Regional Transition Committee at risk of being politically unrepresentative and that the Department should look at ways of making sure political balance is guaranteed.”

During the meeting the Committee also questioned the Minister on whether he had given any thought to providing loans to councils to cover the initial costs and resources required to implement the reform process. The Committee also asked the Department to provide an explanation behind some of the key approaches being taken.

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