In April 2015 Northern Ireland’s councils will reduce from 26 to 11, with the aim of making local government stronger, more effective and more citizen-focused. Councils are being given more power at a local level, which will enable them to lead and facilitate the community planning process. This will allow councils, in partnership with other public service providers and departments, to influence how and where services are provided, resulting in a more flexible approach to meeting local needs without any duplication. The following functions, which are currently delivered by NI Executive departments, will be carried out by local councils:
- Local planning functions
- Off-street parking
- Local economic development
- Community development (will transfer in April 2016)
- Urban regeneration (will transfer in April 2016)
The integration of these functions, combined with councils’ existing functions, will allow for a more productive joined-up approach which will make the most of opportunities and best utilise all the strengths available.
Why the need for change?
The two overriding key benefits of the changes relate to service provision and long-term cost savings. The broader range of services and functions delivered at local council level will mean that there will be greater accountability in decision making. New, innovative and creative models of service delivery will be developed to promote modern and efficient practice by grouping councils together for the delivery of significant services, such as planning and regeneration. Systems of performance management will be introduced which will support innovative and efficient ways of working.
Is it worth the pain?
All of this will change the way our cities, towns and rural areas are planned and will place a sharper focus on sustainable local economic development. It will allow local people to influence and make decisions on local business development, infrastructure provision, job creation and economic competitiveness.
As with most significant change, there is an element of fear factor and people (residents and local government employees) are asking, “How will this affect me?” The hope is that the reforms will result in positive change, delivering both cost savings and more efficient services for Northern Ireland. Yes, there will be job losses and it may prove more costly for some rate payers; however, it is envisaged that the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks.
Councils will have a strengthened role in ensuring that the local investment climate fits the needs of local businesses: supporting small and medium size enterprises, encouraging the formation of new businesses, attracting external investment and generally supporting the growth of business in their local areas.
During this transition period BrightStar Recruitment will continue to assist councils with employment solutions on permanent, temporary and contract basis. We can also provide bespoke HR consultancy services to save organisations time and money. BrightStar will also be in a position to offer assistance to those who may be impacted by voluntary redundancies as part of these changes by providing advice on the employment options which may be open to them on either a temporary or a permanent basis.
If you’d like more information on local government reform and its impact on the employment market, contact me on 02890 325 325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org