Pressure on Poots over changeover

THE umbrella group for Northern Ireland's 26 district councils has written to Environment Minister Edwin Poots, demanding "a clear decision over the date for the creation of the 11 new so-called super councils".

Cllr John Mathews from Larne, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) president, said his organisation was totally confused "as the NI Executive prevaricates over the councils' future".

Mr Poots was scheduled on Thursday to inform the executive that the changeover – planned for next year – was being postponed until 2015 and that next year's local government elections would be to the existing 26 councils.

But a reported clash between Mr Poots and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson put off the announcement until next week, which has placed it all in the melting pot. It is reported that Mr Wilson wants the super councils formed on schedule, but Mr Poots has responded that this is impracticable.

Mr Wilson refused to comment. "It's Edwin Poots' domain," he emphasised.

And a statement from Mr Poots' department said: "The minister has put a paper to the Executive, and Executive business is confidential."

Mr Mathews said: "We are demanding clarity. This is all the result of Edwin Poots questioning certain proposed boundary changes in Lisburn, Belfast and Castlereagh.

"The district councils have done all they can to facilitate the changeover and once again it's the ineptitude of the Executive that is delaying things. They are holding themselves up to ridicule again – it's all dragging on like the infamous Congress of Vienna last century that seemed to last for ever."

He added: "Notwithstanding the Executive delay, we are going ahead with a planned meeting of the 26 councils in July to discuss items of mutual interest, like finance and IT. Hopefully, we can drag the Executive into the modern era."