Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, discussed the reduction of Executive departments from 12 to 9 during today’s Question Time. The reduction, to be implemented in time for the 2016 election, is a commitment of the Stormont House Agreement. “Further detailed work on the functions allocated to each Department can be carried out whilst working through the legislative process. The timetable for the implementation of the reduction in Departments is extremely challenging. That is why we have taken key decisions as early as possible to allow as much time as possible for legislation to be progressed and for the proper planning and implementation of this major change programme.” The Minister added that it “presents us with a huge opportunity to streamline the Civil Service and create better cohesion between and within Departments, resulting in quality key services being provided to citizens.”
The Stormont House Agreement was also discussed during topical questions, with Daithi McKay keen to discover what progress has been made on the implementation of the various commitments in the Agreement. Mr McGuinness pointed out that it is one thing to reach an agreement and quite another to implement it but enthused that “I am tremendously encouraged by the attitude and spirit of all of those who have a duty and a responsibility to implement the agreement.” We have committed on a way forward and “people have set about the work involved in a very serious-minded way.” Work has already begun on reducing the number of Executive departments, on welfare reform and plans are being considered to reduce the number of Assembly members by 2021. In the next 18 months a commission will be set up to look at flags, symbols and identity.