Alliance Party Leader David Ford has said the Review of Public Administration must make the quality of services for all of Northern Ireland its number one priority.
The South Antrim MLA stated: “Public discussion of the Review of Public Administration has focused too much on council numbers and boundaries, rather than the real issue, namely how best to deliver services to communities.
“In its response, Alliance has put the focus clearly on the quality of services for the whole region. Some of these are best delivered at regional level. We believe, for example, in a single education body for all of Northern Ireland, taking responsibilities from the five Boards and from CCMS.
“Other elements, such as youth services, are best delivered as closely to the community as possible, in conjunction with existing community work by Councils. Hence our belief that 15 councils offer the best possible access to local government.
“Furthermore, councils must be based on definable communities. There is no need for them all to be precisely the same size. There are historical, cultural and geographical issues to consider as well.
“Some services need significantly larger populations than a local Council needs. Health and personal Social Services cannot be properly delivered in 15 units — or even in seven. The new structures should be based on the existing four Boards.
“This requires the Government to end the notion of ‘co-terminosity’, that all services should be delivered under the same boundaries. It does not
apply in GB and services should not be made to fit an unworkable structure.
“In the end, this debate is about service provision and access to democracy. We believe this is best achieved through ensuring accountable democratic politics at both local and regional level.
“For some services, delivery by 15 local Councils is most appropriate. For others, we urgently need to see an Assembly taking charge of strategic issues at the regional level.”