Councils 'need to hit ground running'

Councils 'need to hit ground running'

Retailers and business representatives have said the new super councils need to be prepared and to hit the ground running when power is formally transferred to them in April 2015.

Over the weekend 462 councillors were elected to the new 11 councils, which will will replace the 26 local authorities next year.For the next 12 months the new councils will work 'in shadow' to make decisions on their actual running including issues such as their names and where they site their headquarters.As well as covering bigger areas, they will also have a larger annual budget of around £600m combined.The biggest change, however, is that they will take on more responsibilities, such as planning and economic regeneration.Retailers and business leaders have said those new councillors need to get working now in order to ensure a smooth transition for the transfer of powers.Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retailers' Association has welcomed the changes to the councils.He said: "Local business can have a greater say with these new powers."My concern would be that these councils need to hit the ground running come April 2015."They need to have a plan in place to address business issues, to regenerate their local economy and put the regeneration of their local town centres top of their list."Nigel Smyth from the CBI added: "Planning is critically important, we need to have certainty in terms of policy and indeed the speed of decision making."While there has been improvements over the last couple of years when decisions have been taken at the regional level, this is the biggest challenge for the new councils."Linda McHugh from the Department of Environment, which has handled the bulk of local government reform, responded: "There has been a lot of work done over the past two-and-a-half years through working groups made up of both central and local government representatives."This is to make sure all the issues are ironed out and how power will be transferred to make sure everything is up and running for 1 April 2015."


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