Budget of £3m to train employees for Northern Ireland's great town hall shake-up
Stormont ministers have set aside £3m to help train up Northern Ireland's new councils – after most members have been elected.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan insists the cash is essential to ensure the province's 11 new super councils can deliver new powers on local planning and regeneration.
As the Belfast Telegraph revealed last year, the new authorities will operate in shadow mode for a year alongside the existing 26 councils. And during that time both councillors and staff will attend a comprehensive programme of workshops, seminars and 'role-play' sessions.
In the first tranche, 10 out of the 11 new councils are to receive £100,000 apiece in the current financial year – with Belfast due to get twice that (£200,000) because it has more councillors and a bigger staff complement.
Each of the 11 transition committees which have been overseeing the changes – including appointment of senior staff – have already been allocated £20,000 each.
A senior Department of the Environment source said some training is already under way with a number of veteran councillors who are expected to be returned onto the new authorities.
But the councils' umbrella body, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), said the "lion's share" of the training will take place after May 22.
John Adams, NILGA's head of workforce, said: "All the budget for this is owned by the Department of the Environment and as a consequence they will decide what is provided, to whom and using which mechanisms.
"As well as training for councillors, the budget covers council employees and employees from organisations transferring people to the new councils."