Belfast Telegraph

Local government bill is welcomed

A proposal to end dual political mandates has been tabled at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Local Government Reorganisation Bill would bar MLAs, MPs and MEPs from also being elected as councillors.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan said: ""Today is a key stage in our journey to improving local government. The legislation will ensure that what may have been aspirational before is now set in stone."

He said councils have to share positions of responsibility and councillors will have a mandatory code of conduct.

The bill includes n ew governance arrangements for councils - for the first time, sharing council positions of responsibility across political parties and independents will be enshrined in law. The public will have more access to council meetings and documents.

Other measures include:

:: The creation of a new council-led community planning process - partnership with other public service providers to develop and implement a vision for the economic, social and environmental well-being of the district.

:: General power of competence - gives councils the power to do anything that individuals generally can do that is not prohibited by other laws. The aim is to develop innovative approaches to improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.

:: Performance improvement to deliver high quality, efficient services - including the requirement for councils to report annually on performance.

:: Establishing a panel of Stormont ministers and councillors to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Mr Durkan added: "The Bill will provide our 11 new councils with the powers to be stronger, more creative and more effective in delivering services to their citizens. They can now imaginatively produce initiatives to boost their local economies and create jobs, protect the environment and enhance the well-being of their citizens."

The legislation will be debated at the start of next month.

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