The time is now right to extend the responsibilities of local government in Northern Ireland through greater devolution from Stormont, a new report said today.
It comes with Stormont not having met for months in a row between former coalition partners the DUP and Sinn Fein over the place of the Irish language and a host of other issues.
The report by the New Policy Institute think-tank, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), said the opportunity now existed to ‘solve the current paralysis’ by ‘unlocking the potential of councils as the hub of public services’.
It called for powers over transport, culture, environment, planning, regeneration and skills development to be handed to Northern Ireland’s councils.
Chief executive of NILGA, Derek McCallan, said: ‘It must be recognised that to keep Northern Ireland moving forward, greater devolution of responsibilities with proper financial resourcing must be on the table - not just as the antidote to current paralysis but to strengthen democratic input by local people in the longer-term in how we spend £21bn per annum here.
‘This independent report provides us with evidence that this works in Scotland and Wales and is not an alien concept.’
‘It’s not a drive for independence or a power grab by local government.’