Hopes for a deal to fund Northern Ireland’s councils shake-up have increased after the Environment Minister made clear that central Government will meet part of the costs.
DUP Minister Edwin Poots confirmed the Executive will pay the bill for transferring planning powers to 11 new councils formed out of the present 26.
The move comes ahead of Thursday’s crunch Executive meeting on the financing feud between Stormont and town halls.
It has emerged that the provision of loans could provide a mechanism for deciding whether the Assembly or councils foot the estimated £118m start-up costs for the revamp, due to be finalised by May of next year.
A spokesman for the minister said: “A fundamental principle of the Review of Public Administration is that the transfer of functions from departments to local government should have no additional cost for the ratepayer at the point of transfer, and the minister will ensure that this is the case when the planning function transfers to local government.”
John Mathews, president of the NI Local Government Association (NILGA), said: “That is good news, that is very much to be welcomed and a positive sign.”