Local government in Northern Ireland has undergone a significant reform process in terms of both the number of councils (from twenty-six to eleven) and their functional responsibilities. Councils in Northern Ireland have always been regarded as the ‘poor relation’ of central government or non-departmental public bodies which deliver many of the services performed by local government in other parts of the UK (education, social services, housing). The reforms in Northern Ireland, while devolving relatively minor additional functions, offer councils a significant role in community planning – the legal power to hold central departments to account for services provided by them in local areas. This paper argues that councils can use this power to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants.
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