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People should not be forced foot the bill for political indulgence

24 May, 2007

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson in a hard hitting attack on politicians who want to increase the number of councils from 7 to 11 or 15 has said ordinary people will have to foot the bill for the indulgence of politicians wanting to protect their local government seats.

Ms Anderson also said that this political indulgence would lead to weaker councils.

Ms Anderson was speaking after she demanded a breakdown of the estimated costs of increasing the number of councils moving from 7 to 11 or 15. Last week officials from the Office of the First Minster and deputy First Minster confirmed that this move would cost £35 million a year.

Speaking after the Committee of the Centre meeting in Stormont today Ms Anderson said:

"I don't think anyone will forgive the indulgence of politicians looking after their own council seats if it ends up costing us in excess of £35 million a year. This sort of money could help us scrap water charges, or invest in housing, health or education.

"What some of these politicians in favour of increasing then number of councils from 7 to 11 or 15 are not telling people is that it isn't politicians that will foot the bill but ordinary people.

"In reality we need to move on from the debate about the number of councils and councillors to the real issues; what functions will be devolved to the new councils, what will be the impact on people's rates (who probably don't want to pay more money just to have more councillors), and will the structures ensure that we get proper partnership politics.

"People should also know that an increase in the number of councils to 11 or 15 would lead to inefficient and inequitable service delivery. It would mean that it would not be cost effective to transfer greater powers to local government. So this political indulgence would not just lead to more councils, more councillors and cost us more money it would also lead to weaker councils." ENDS

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