Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Rift deepens over council reform

Sinn Fein and the DUP have warned the minister responsible for Northern Ireland’s councils that it is too late for him to reopen debate on the future of local government.

A deal between the two biggest Executive parties would see the current 26 councils mutate into 11 new bodies. These would operate in ‘shadow’ form from 2014 and go live a year later.

But the SDLP’s Alex Attwood has urged the Executive to “step back” for a rethink on whether 11 is the correct number, and suggested a strong case exists for moving to 15 instead.

However, ahead of today’s Executive meeting, Sinn Fein’s environment spokesman Willie Clarke, said: “It would seem that Alex Attwood is now mimicking his DUP predecessor (Edwin Poots) in attempting to impose the original SDLP preference for 15 councils.

“Alex Attwood needs to accept that the decision has been taken, the Executive has settled on an 11-council model.”

The DUP’s Peter Weir added: “I would urge Mr Attwood to stop stalling or the Executive will have to consider other ways of bringing this reform forward.”

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