All 21 local authorities have been provided with information to enable vacancies to be filled following the postponement of the local authority elections to 22 April 2021.
Vacancies can arise at any time and, under normal circumstances, do not need to be filled within 6 months prior to a local authority election taking place.
In a letter to clerks and chief executives, Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker MHK said:
‘[A] consequence of this [postponement] was that the tenure of Local Authority Members was extended through Emergency Powers legislation from 1 May 2020 to 1 May 2021.
‘My Department has been looking at the consequences of this. The democratic right to representation is an important principle that the Department endorses and has been a key consideration when seeking to find a solution to these issues.’
The correspondence includes detailed information relating to how casual vacancies should be filled under the current circumstances, as well as the relevant legislation.
It also recognises that local authorities must conduct their own affairs, and that they should consider legal advice while finding a pragmatic way forward.
All enquiries relating to possible vacancies and election dates should be directed to the relevant local authority.