Environment Minister Mark H Durkan took part in the meeting of the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Statutory Transition Committee (STC) at Craigavon Civic Centre last week.
Mr Durkan said, “The STCs are playing a critical role in helping to drive local government reform and prepare for the new 11 councils which will come into being in shadow form after the elections next May. This reform programme is a partnership between local and central government and last night’s meeting provided a beneficial opportunity for us to discuss progress and exchange information.
“Going forward, I will support the changing role of the three existing councils and provide them with a robust and comprehensive legislative and operational framework so that the newly created Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council is open for business in April 2015.
“It’s now less than 500 days until that date and I am visiting the other STCs over the coming months to ensure that this critical transition work is moving at a pace towards delivery - delivery of a more effective, efficient, citizen centred and responsive system of local government.”
The Minister heard of the progress of the Committee and addressed issues on topics including finance, the transfer of planning, community planning and performance improvement.
STC Chair, Councillor Jim Speers MBE said, “On behalf of the members I would like to thank the Minister for visiting our committee. It has been very helpful. Our STC is well established and is moving forward together, working towards the completion of an agreed implementation plan. All the members realise the major challenge that the local government reform programme presents, however we see the reform process as an opportunity to review and align our services, and put structures and systems in place, resulting in a stronger, more dynamic council that will maximize the benefits to all our citizens.”
STCs are responsible for leading convergence between merging councils and undertaking important preparatory work for the new councils that will take over in April 2015. This includes preparing a draft budget and a draft corporate and business plan for the new councils. Each will also appoint its chief executive.