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Emergency legislation for Northern Ireland

By Ian Holloway, head of legislation and compliance at Cintra HR & Payroll Services

With a general election looming UK-wide, let’s not forget that Northern Ireland is still without a devolved administration. Despite the fact that there were elections there on 2 March 2017, discussions between the two leading unionist and nationalist parties (the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin) have failed to produce a working Northern Ireland executive.

The legislative deadline for agreement on the formation of a new devolved executive expired on 27 March 2017, though Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP allowed these to continue, advising that he would seek to amend the legislation.

Fast forward to the Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointments and Regional Rates) Act that was zoomed through Westminster in terms of necessity. This Bill does two things:

1. Extends the deadline for the formation of a new executive to 29 June 2017 by amending the Northern Ireland Act as if the previous condition had never been there;
2. Increases the regional rate for homes and businesses for the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 by 1.6% on the year ended 31 March 2017. This rate would normally have been set by the executive. The result is that Land & Property Services (LPS) will now be able to issue annual rate bills which comprise the district (council) rate increase and the regional (Northern Ireland-wide) rate.

So, a bit of biding for time coupled with a bit of stability for Northern Ireland with this act. That is not the end of the story by any means and talks resume following the 8 June General Election. Once the 29 June 2017 deadline passes we really have only two options left:

1. A return to direct rule (from Westminster). If this happens, Northern Ireland ceases to be a devolved administration
2. More elections!

Posted on 4th May 2017 by Jerome Smail



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