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Local Government Reform Programme

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:15 pm on 20th October 2009.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 5:15 pm, 20th October 2009

The Member raised a number of issues. He is right to say that 25 years is a long time; he may even have received his free TV licence by then and not only his free bus pass. We will have to negotiate with the Department of Finance and Personnel to identify a solution to finding the £118 million. Central government may make the entire contribution or part of it, local government may make the full contribution, or it may be a combination. Loans, through which councils borrow at very favourable rates and start to pay back the loan when they are financially better off as a result of the savings that are made, may be sanctioned. All that must be worked out.

The Member also identified the issue of convergence. That is a separate and distinct issue that must be resolved among the councils. Mr Gallagher rightly identified that the largest difference is in the new Fermanagh/Omagh council area.

I took on board the lobbying that took place on behalf of the residents of Dunmurry on the boundary changes, through the submission that was made to the Executive. I identified a stronger boundary than the one that was included in the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner’s proposal. Modest modifications have been made. For example, the civic offices in Castlereagh will remain in the Castlereagh council area, and the leisure development to the Dundonald side will be in the Belfast council area.