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SDLP call for joint First Minister

A joint office should replace the titles of first and deputy first ministers, the SDLP said today.

The position of junior minister should be abolished and some functions taken from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and given to other departments, the party manifesto added.

Sinn Fein has offered to create a joint first ministry if it becomes the largest party after the election but the DUP has said it is keen to ensure it retains the position.

The SDLP said: "SDLP proposals will include reinforcing the joint nature of OFMDFM by changing titles to joint first ministers.

"While we do not believe this will in any way improve the lives of the people of the North, if removing the deputy element helps reinforce the equal status of the office, the SDLP would support such a change."

The SDLP said OFMDFM has four ministers and eight special advisers and claimed this was excessive, adding that it would scrap the posts of junior ministers.

"(We need to) reduce the staff complement in OFMDFM so that it becomes lean and efficient, capable of focusing on the overall work and performance of the Executive. This would also produce a modest financial saving," the manifesto said.

Other pledges included cutting the number of MLAs from 108 to 96 by the time of the next election, with a further reduction negotiable after 2015.

There are 11 Stormont departments and the SDLP wants to reduce that

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