Page last updated at 05:59 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 06:59 UK

Council replacement plan on hold

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It was hoped councillors could be replaced without by-elections

Councillors who wish to quit their posts without the need for a by-election may have to wait for another six months.

The Stormont environment minister has told the BBC that Westminster is resisting introducing the necessary legislation.

The local parties wanted the law to ease the change from 26 councils to 11.

However, Edwin Poots said he had been told that some Westminster MPs think it is anti-democratic.

Mr Poots, the environment minister, met with NIO minister Paul Goggins earlier this week.

It had been hoped that long-serving councillors would be able to quit early and be replaced by new people who could then gain experience before the 11 new "super councils" were elected in 2011.

The plan was to replace outgoing councillors by appointment rather than holding costly by-elections, but it requires legislation at Westminister.

Until the matter is resolved, assembly members and ministers are unlikely to leave their council posts.

Northern Ireland currently has a 26-council system which dates back to the 1970s but, after a review, former secretary of state Peter Hain opted to cut these to just seven.

Sinn Fein supported that plan but the other major parties said they would be too big to preserve local identity and backed a 15-council model.

A Sinn Fein/DUP compromise of 11 new councils was then agreed.

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