Committee hears update on council reform

ENVIRONMENT Minister Alex Attwood has continued his series of meetings with key council groups helping drive local government reform and recently met with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Voluntary Transition Committee (VTC).

Following the meeting in Armagh, Mr Atwood said the boundaries of the 11 new councils had been approved by the Assembly and the implementation structure to deliver the programme was established “and well underway”.

“I believe that Northern Ireland needs a new phase of reform and I am taking forward the reform of local government,” said Mr Attwood. “This meeting is about moving up a gear and I want to work ever more closely with council leaders in this joint enterprise.

“We’re moving into a critical implementation phase and I believe it’s important that I visit each VTC to ensure that preparations continue at a local level to effectively deliver the programme.”

The Minister heard of the committee’s progress and addressed issues around transferring functions to local government, new council responsibilities, programme funding and managing the impact of rates convergence.

VTC chairman for the meeting, Councillor Roy McCartney, said: “Our three merging councils welcome the recent reinvigoration of the local government reform process and look forward to working in partnership with central government.

“However, the councils share the Minister’s disappointment at the recent unsuccessful funding bid and hope that the renewed bid is successful, as pump prime funding is essential to the success of the transition programme.”

Mr McCartney commented that over the last few years the councils of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon had continued to work together and were “committed” to making the transition process easier for both staff and citizens.