28/10/2008

Executive Deadlock Could Hinder Council Reforms, Says Wilson

Sammy Wilson has warned the reform of local government could be delayed if further Executive meetings fail to take place.

Mr Wilson, the Minister in charge of overseeing the restructuring of council districts in Northern Ireland, said a new committee system had been formed to monitor the process.

Northern Ireland's 26 local councils will be reduced to 11 under the plans.

However, Environment Minister Mr Wilson said the deadline for reformation would be missed if the Cabinet does not table legislation soon.

It is hoped the 11 new councils could be functioning prior to the May 2011 elections.

Councillors have been invited to contribute to 11 new Stormont committees, appointed to manage the merging of local authorities.

Minister Wilson has raised concerns that a paper outlining the plans ahead of legislation had not been taken forward by the Executive.
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A full ministerial meeting has not taken place since June.

The Executive is facing a virtual stalemate amid wrangling over the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly.

Mr Wilson said Sinn Fein was blocking meetings, and that his request to have the First Ministers deal with the issue, as an urgent procedure, had been declined.

"Some of this legislation should have actually been on the floor of the assembly now and be discussed by the environment committee," said Mr Wilson

"I have asked for it to go through under special procedures that has not been agreed and therefore I'm still waiting for that legislation to get onto the floor of the assembly.

"The longer that goes on then the greater the risk to this whole project," he added.

Each transition committee, one for each new council area, will consist of around 16 councillors, with an estimated initial budget of £150,000.

(PR)

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