A new era: Local government reform - key dates, figures and Q&As
Here’s a brief guide on what you need to know about the new Council ahead of next week’s elections.
22 May 2014 – date of local government elections to 11 new councils
1 April 2015 – date the 11 new councils take over from the current 26
582 – number of councillors in the current 26 councils
462 – number of councillors that will be elected to the 11 new councils
www.nidirect.gov.uk/newcouncils - website people can go to for more information
Why is local government reform happening?
* To modernise local government and improve services.
* As well as being bigger, the new councils will deliver additional services and have other new responsibilities and powers. Combined with their existing functions, this will give them some powerful tools to shape their areas and communities.
* There are also financial benefits to running 11 councils instead of 26.
What new responsibilities will my council have?
A number of functions currently delivered by NI Executive departments will be carried out by councils. These include: local planning, urban regeneration, community development, local economic and tourism development.
off street parking.
Councils will also lead a community planning process. This will be done in partnership with other public service providers in order to collectively address local problems.
Once elected in May, what will the new councils do before taking over from the current councils on 1 April 2015?
During this period, the 11 new councils will operate in shadow form alongside the current 26 councils.
This is known as the ‘shadow period’ and will allow them to make preparations to take over on 1 April 2015. Preparations include: Leading cooperation between merging councils; designing their new organisational and service delivery structures; appointing senior staff to the new councils from the staff of the old councils; approving business and financial plans for the new councils; setting rates for 2015/16.
What will the current councils do during the shadow period?
It will be business as usual for the current 26 councils. They will continue to operate as normal, delivering all of their usual services and looking after all existing council matters.
What will the new councils be called?
The names of the new local government districts were set out in the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (NI) 2008 - see list below. However, the councils will not be restricted to using these names. After the local government elections the councils will be able to change their names. The local council will be called Causeway Coast and Glens District.
Explain more about applying for city council or borough council status.
All 11 new councils will initially be established as ‘district councils’. A new council will be able to opt to continue the charter of an existing council within its district (if it resolves to do so) or apply to the Secretary of State for the grant of borough status to the new district.
City status is awarded by the Queen. As such, a council is not able to ‘apply’ to become a city council; it may only use this term if a city falls within its district boundary.
Where can I find out which new council area I live or work in?
Visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/newcouncils and enter your address.
Where will the new councils have their headquarters?
This will be decided by the new councils once elected.
What help is being given to staff and councillors to prepare them for the changes and develop their knowledge and skills?
DOE is funding a programme of capacity building and training for staff and councillors to help ensure a seamless transfer of functions and responsibilities to councils in April 2015.
Will there be redundancies and will council staff have to apply for their own jobs?
On 1 April 2015 all employees of an existing council will automatically be transferred to become employees of the new council. They will transfer under TUPE-type protections, retaining their current terms and conditions.
Only staff who are in positions where the amalgamation has resulted in a clear surplus could potentially be adversely impacted. For example, if three councils are merging, there will be three Finance Directors coming into the new council but a need for only one.
The Local Government Reform Joint Forum (a management and Trade Union consultation body) is developing a number of mechanisms to deal with this scenario. DOE and the local government employers are committed to taking every possible measure to avoid any redundancy situation and will work with the Trade Unions to secure employment and reduce the likelihood of compulsory redundancies.
Will rates be affected in 2015/16 because of the changes?
When setting the 2015/16 rates, we will move from 26 levels of rates to 11. It is unavoidable that adjustments will need to be made, however the NI Executive has committed up to £30 million for a rates relief scheme. This means that any rates increases will be kept to a minimum.