Northern Ireland

Poots wants planning for councils

Map of current council areas
Image caption Agreement has not been reached in reducing the number of councils

Environment Minister Edwin Poots still wants to give councils powers over planning despite the failure to agree on reducing their numbers.

His department said the minister was committed to transferring planning powers, but final decisions would need the approval of the Stormont Executive.

However, Sinn Fein has again criticised Mr Poots over his failure to cut the current 26 councils down to 11.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey claimed he had squandered £400m in savings.

He said this was because of what he described as "petty party political considerations".

Earlier this month, the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance ministers all voted for the 11 council model but the three DUP ministers voted against. The UUP ministers did not vote.

Michael McGimspey and Sir Reg Empey of the UUP and Mr Poots of the DUP absented themselves from the vote due to their roles as councillors.

Local government representatives have given a qualified yes to the environment minister's demand that they pay the cost of council reform.

The 26 councils agreed to meet the bill if it was based on principles of fairness, with the cost for reducing the number of councils to 11 estimated at £118m.

Mr Poots told the assembly last year that the £118m cost to fund the process of cutting councils would mean savings of £438m could be made over 25 years.

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