Northern Ireland

The NI Sustainable Development Commission may be axed

The Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland may be scrapped as a result of government cutbacks.

The announcement from Westminster to stop funding the commission across the UK also includes the office in Belfast.

The commission is an independent adviser to the NI Executive on environmental and social matters.

Part of its role is to scrutinise how the Executive implement their own sustainable development strategy, adopted earlier this year.

Although they are funded in part from London, the Office for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland also contributes to the cost of the local office which has three staff.

Commenting on the decision by the UK government to end its funding, the head of the SDC in Northern Ireland, Jim Kitchen, said: "We are deeply disappointed that the UK government has decided to withdraw its funding from the Sustainable Development Commission.

"We believe, however, that there is still much for us to contribute here in Northern Ireland as trusted independent advisors to the Executive."

The SDC's only lifeline would be if the Executive agreed to find the extra cash to keep it operating locally.

That would mean, that at a time of stringent financial cutbacks, it would have to pay up to retain a local independent watchdog which in turn scrutinises and holds it to account on its progress towards sustainable development

"As the Executive moves forward in the coming months with the new Northern Ireland Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan it is crucial that the clear commitment to sustainable development contained within our Programme for Government is delivered, both in policy and in practice," said Mr Kitchen.

OFMDFM told the BBC that "options for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Commission's functions here are currently under consideration".

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