Northern Ireland councils offer to step into the breach


Northern Ireland’s councils have called for more devolution as they offer to step into the power vacuum caused by the political crisis engulfing Stormont.

Speaking after the collapse of the country’s executive, Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) president, Cllr Sean McPeake, today warned the assembly would be ‘volatile for some time’.

Amid the spectre of the UK government reintroducing direct rule after 10 years of unbroken devolution, Cllr McPeake said councils would offer stability.

Stormont: Home of the Northern Ireland Assembly

He continued: ‘The 11 councils in the North – collectively, sub regionally and locally - are in situ to deliver economic growth, co-ordinate and deliver public services and take on a range of investments, as we have done for decades, without interruption, in an efficient, effective and innovative way.

‘Regardless of the current situation, our message is clear: devolve more to councils, including the resources to do what’s required, ensure that they are the hub of the wheel of communities they are proud and well able to serve and rewire how our public services are delivered, with local people at the forefront of delivery.’

NILGA’s all-council, five-party political leadership has written to Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire calling for a meeting.

The 2015 devolution package gave councils powers over off-street parking. The Department for Infrastructure retained on-street parking.

Derek McCallan, NILGA's chief executive, told Transport Network the Northern Ireland executive retains control of comprehensive development schemes, land assembly and drawing up master plans.

'That means two liaison bodies. That means no one-stop shop. That means opportunity cost, delay and investment disincentives.'

He added: 'Councils have, since day one, campaigned that the funding for the maintenance of off-street car parks was inadequate given the extremely poor condition of some parks.

'While this has now been acknowledged by the Department, the additional funding is still to be made to councils.'

Additional reporting by our sister publication The MJ.  

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