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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Executive moves on NI water bills
All the new ministers attended the meeting

Proposed new water charges will not be introduced in 2007-2008, First Minister Ian Paisley has said.

The 75m cost of the move will be paid for from extra funds negotiated from Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The decision was taken as the new power-sharing executive met for the first time at Stormont in Belfast.

Mr Paisley said the executive had decided to conduct a review to address financing water and sewerage services, to be completed by the autumn.

He said not imposing the charges would save the average Northern Ireland household 100 in the year ahead.

At the meeting ministers also reviewed public spending priorities for the year ahead, the proposed programme for government and the legislative programme.

The executive also discussed the detail of the chancellor's financial package.

Fortnightly meetings

Ministers have been lobbying the Treasury for the resources it says "it needs to address the challenges that lie ahead".

A statement from the executive said Mr Brown had confirmed in writing the proposals he has already made, but that negotiations would continue to "ensure that we get the best possible deal".

The meeting was the first of what will be fortnightly meetings of the executive.

Stormont
The executive is negotiating with Gordon Brown for more funds

In contrast to the previous executive, which the DUP refused to attend, all the new ministers took their places around the table.

On his way in, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was more excited than before because the DUP was participating.

Mr McGuinness and First Minister Ian Paisley smiled at each other as they took their seats.

Another survivor from the previous executive, Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey, said he wanted to see how long the DUP-Sinn Fein "love-in" lasts.

The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie said she was not concerned about being the only member of her party at the table.

She said she would be battling hard and forming alliances to get money for her social development department and her priorities including housing.

Asked to shift his chair for an official photograph Mr Paisley joked that he would move it "not an inch".




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Ministers round the table



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