Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, has confirmed = that the legislation to effect the transfer of a range of powers to the new Councils, will now be in place from 1 April 2016, as opposed to 1 April 2015 as had been previously agreed.
The Minister has written to his Assembly colleagues by way of a written Ministerial Statement.
The Statement can be viewed at http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/ /Department-for-Social-Development-Regeneration-And-Housing-Bill/
The Minister said: “Since taking up appointment in September I have been actively working to progress the necessary legislation to transfer regeneration and community powers to the new Councils. There have been a number of discussions with my Executive colleagues and I have suggested some changes to the Bill which has now been agreed.”
Referring to the changes the Minister stated: “Concerns were raised regarding the proposed transfer of the Housing functions from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and, having discussed these concerns with Executive colleagues, I decided to remove the relevant provisions from the Bill. I recently brought a paper on a proposed new regulatory regime for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOS) to the Executive which was agreed, and, in the Housing Strategy 2012-17 there is a commitment to review the statutory fitness standard across all tenures over the lifeline of the Housing Strategy Action Plan. I have therefore concluded that it is more appropriate to consider this work separately from the Bill. The Bill has therefore been renamed and will be referred to as the Regeneration Bill.
“The time taken to reach agreement has been considerable. Given the average length of time for a bill to pass through the Assembly, the significant operational issues that are still outstanding and the short time remaining before the Reform of Local Government takes place, the legislation will now have a commencement date of 1 April 2016.”
The Regeneration Bill will allow for the extension of powers to councils such as the power to address social need and carry out regeneration schemes. It would also allow for the responsibility for Laganside to transfer to Belfast City Council.
Concluding the Minister said: “I have written to the Chief Executives of the new councils to alert them to this revised implementation date and to reassure them that my Department will continue with the current work programme, allowing additional time to deal with transitional issues including projects, budgets and staff.”