Belfast Telegraph

What you need to know about new structures

By Staff Reporter

So what will the creation of 11 new councils mean to you? Here are answers to some of the questions that you need to know.

Q. Where can I find out which new council area I live in?

A. Visit /newcouncils and enter your address. It will tell you which council you will belong to.

Q. Will rates be affected in 2015/16 because of the changes?

A. The shift from 26 levels of rates to 11 will make adjustments unavoidable but the Executive has set aside up to £30m for a rates relief scheme to help cushion any increases. Environment Minister Mark H Durkan says that, because of this support, any rates increases will be kept to a minimum.

Q. What reforms are included in the new local government legislation?

A. For the first time, sharing council positions of responsibility across political parties and independents will be enshrined in law – and the public should have more access to council meetings and documents. A new ethical standards regime includes a mandatory code of conduct for councillors.

A general power of competence is aimed at helping develop innovative approaches to improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area they represent.

There will also be an end to double jobbing – placing a bar on MLAs, MPs and MEPs from also being elected or being councillors.

Q. Why is local government reform happening?

A. To create stronger, more effective local government. Combined with their existing functions, councils will have some powerful tools to shape their areas and communities.

The aim that is in increasing efficiency over 25 years, the cost to the public purse will ease as councils become "more creative in delivering services", more flexible and responsive to local needs.

Q. What new responsibilities will my council have?

A. A number of functions currently delivered by Executive departments will be carried out by councils. These include:

  • local planning
  • urban regeneration
  • community development
  • local economic and tourism development
  • off-street parking

Q. What will the new councils do before taking over from the current councils on April 1, 2015?

A. During this period, they operate alongside the current 26 councils in what is known as the 'shadow period' which will allow them to make preparations to take over on April 1 next year, including co-operation between merging councils, designing their new organisational and service delivery structures, appointing senior staff, approving business and financial plans, and setting rates for 2015/16

Q. What will the current councils do during the shadow period?

A. It will be business as usual for the current 26 councils. They will continue to operate as normal, delivering all of their usual services and looking after all existing council matters.

Q. What will the new councils be called?

A. After the local government elections the councils will be able to change their names and there are a number of issues to be considered including the district name and the council's status – whether it will be a district council, borough council or, in some cases, a city council.

Q. Where will the new councils have their headquarters?

A. Again, this will be decided by the new councils once elected.

Belfast Telegraph


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