Councillors demand central government pays for merger

NEWTOWNABBEY councillors have unanimously backed a motion to demand that the Northern Ireland Executive pays the full costs of the Review of Public Administration (RPA).

At a recent council Policy and Governance Committee meeting (June 19) councillors Mark Cosgrove and John Scott called on the Executive to front the bill for the local authority’s planned amalgamation with Antrim in 2015.

The motion demanded that Central Government pay all the costs including associated staff costs, rates convergence and severance packages for councillors.

At the meeting councillors were informed by Chief Executive Jacqui Dixon that, so far, £200,000 was to be paid to each council cluster towards the costs of the proposed merger of the 26 councils into 11 so-called ‘super-councils’.

Councillor Cosgrove said: “While the £200,000 is to be welcomed, it is but a drop in the ocean. While every little helps, councils need £123m and this equates to just £2.2m

“It is vitally important that Newtownabbey ratepayers are not burdened by the costs of RPA. Newtownabbey businesses are struggling and ratepayers are stretched with mounting bills.

“It is important RPA is handled efficiently and costs are reduced but not at the expense of our ratepayers

“This is only the start of the battle, we need to make it known to Central Government that our mandate cannot be ignored.”

Councillor John Scott added: “It is important this council puts out a strong message.

“It is completely wrong to put the burden of that cost on the Newtownabbey ratepayer.”

Councillors backed the motion, however, DUP member and alderman Billy DeCourcy added a note of caution.

He said: “This matter has been on the agenda for some time. Even when it was Edwin Poots who was the Minister responsible, I could not get answers on RPA at DUP meetings.

“All along they have said the councils will have to pay for RPA and I would be very surprised if that were to change.”