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Joined-up government panel hasn't met for months

By Noel McAdam

Published 29/07/2016

A body set up to connect Stormont with the new super-councils has not met for more than nine months, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal
A body set up to connect Stormont with the new super-councils has not met for more than nine months, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal

A body set up to connect Stormont with the new super-councils has not met for more than nine months, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The Partnership Panel, chaired by a Stormont minister, is also unlikely to meet for a further three months.

The year-long gap emerged as it was revealed the transfer of powers to councils to regenerate their areas appears to have been delayed a third time.

The last session of the Partnership Panel, which was headed by then-Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, was on October 20 last year, and its next meeting is scheduled for this October.

Mr Durkan said he believed the person now in charge of links between Stormont and councils, Communities Minister Paul Givan, should have met the panel by now "at least to hear the issues".

Mr Durkan also claimed there was growing frustration among councillors and council officials about an ongoing delay to the Regeneration Bill, which has already been postponed twice.

Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson demanded a timetable from the Executive for the transfer of powers. "There is frustration among councillors because they have not been given the powers that the public thought they would get when they were elected two years ago," the Upper Bann MLA explained.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) said the situation required urgent attention. "What needs to underpin the Partnership Panel is devolved resources, mutual trust and a dynamic approach to transforming democracy, a spokesman added.

But a statement from Mr Givan's department said: "The extension of regeneration and community development powers to local government did not proceed under the last mandate.

"The Department for Communities has been established with a much wider range of responsibilities, including responsibility for local government. It will be in that context that the minister will wish to consider the options for going forward.

"Ultimately, a decision to extend powers to local government is a matter for the Executive."

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