Northern Ireland

Environment Minister Alex Attwood 'not consulted' over council shake-up

Alex Attwood
Image caption Alex Attwood is the minister responsible for councils

The environment minister has confirmed he was not consulted before the first and acting deputy first ministers announced an agreement to cut the number of local councils.

Alex Attwood is responsible for councils, but has yet to see a written deal which he believes has been drawn up by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Last month, Peter Robinson and John O'Dowd said they had decided to press ahead with the shake-up.

But Mr Attwood urged them to step back.

In an interview for the BBC Politics Show on Sunday, Mr Robinson said that if the environment minister did not bring a paper to the executive, he and Mr O'Dowd would table one themselves.

However on Tuesday Mr Attwood told the BBC the council shake up was "a once in a lifetime opportunity" and the parties should step back to consider what might be the best way forward.

The minister said that given the latest proposals for reshaping the Westminster constituencies and progress made by the existing councils in sharing services, a 15 council model might be a better outcome than the 11 council compromise reached by the two big parties.

The shake-up in local councils has been planned for several years but has proved difficult to reach agreement on.

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