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T1. Mr Smith asked the Minister for Communities, given that, when Jo-Anne Dobson asked him in June about his plans for the devolution of urban regeneration and community development powers to the 11 new councils, he said that a decision would have to be made sooner rather than later, to state how that decision is coming along. (AQT 486/16-21)
The decision on that issue will be taken soon. The Member will not have long to wait for the outcome. Obviously, the rationale for the decision that will be taken will be explained at that time. It is an area that I have been considering in the light of my Department's responsibilities, and an announcement will be made to the House in due course.
I thank the Minister for his update. Will he, with his responsibilities for local government, support and champion the devolution of powers to local councils from all Stormont Departments? Will he ensure that, if and when these powers are devolved, an adequate budget goes with them?
It is vital that the resource follows whatever powers are transferred to local government. At the partnership panel that I am responsible for chairing, I had a discussion with representatives from local government about the powers that they have, and there is a conversation to be had about what future powers they may wish to have. However, I am very clear that wherever the service is being delivered, whether it is at Stormont or through local government or arm's-length bodies, there is a need to make sure that the relationship is one that works effectively. The taxpayer or ratepayer often does not differentiate between local government and central government. Ultimately, what they are interested in is having the service delivered. I am interested in ensuring that we deliver the service and do so effectively and efficiently.