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New councils must deliver more effective services

Published 02/04/2015

This is an important time for local government across Northern Ireland. For the first time in 40 years, our local councils have responsibility for major powers such as planning, regeneration and economic development.

Local government, by its very definition, is the closest to the community and therefore ideally most directly aware of its needs.

It was my party that first put in motion the reform of our local councils well over a decade ago. The priority then was the same as it should have been every day since: to deliver more effective services more efficiently.

Unfortunately, the reorganisation of our councils was hijacked by the DUP and Sinn Fein for their own selfish political gain. Not only would 15 councils have made more sense than the 11 eventually steam-rolled through, but even many of the final boundaries were deliberately manipulated. As an illustration, Dundonald residents are rightly mystified as to why they have been linked with Lisburn instead of their more natural home of Belfast City Council.

Northern Ireland's councillors were entrusted by their respective ratepayers last May to use the new powers wisely and effectively. Many issues are still outstanding, not least ensuring ratepayers aren't left paying the price for these changes. This will be a busy time for our local councils.

Sandra Overend MLA

Ulster Unionist Party

Belfast Telegraph

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