Belfast Telegraph

Cash was used to do away with old system

By Noel McAdam

Local government is likely to prove a confusing place for the next year.

We have 11 shiny new councils, already beginning to meet – but with no power for another 10 months.

And still running almost as if last month's elections never happened are the 26 local authorities the 11 were merged from – which still have functions to perform.

Yet while some councillors will bow out when they finally 'ring out the old' next April, many others overlap and were re-elected to the super councils.

So with the total number of council seats dropping by 120 – from 682 to 462 – Stormont believed a severance scheme would help smooth the transition.

It was Anna Lo, Alliance chair of the Assembly committee which monitors the town halls, who saw a problem.

"How are we going to deflect public criticism if councillors are already receiving pensions?" she asked.

The then Minister Alex Attwood decided councillors would have to have served at least three terms before they would be eligible – and that longer service would lead to larger pay-outs, with a ceiling of around £30,000.

While councillors who decided to stand down are eligible for the payments, they are also available to those councillors who stood for a seat in a new super council but were unsuccessful in wooing the electorate.

Belfast Telegraph

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