Environment Minister Alex Attwood today kicked off a series of meetings with the key council groups which will help drive local government reform.
Known as Voluntary Transition Committees, these consist of the elected representatives in the proposed new 11 council areas.
Today the Minister addressed Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Councils.
Mr Attwood said: "I believe Northern Ireland needs a new phase of reform. Reform in the past has been difficult and has been met with resistance but reform has served us well. We need to do more.
"This includes local government. People know my belief that a 15 council model is better than the 11 option. That difference of view will not derail the need for reform and my belief in reform.
"Today's meeting is to move up a gear and work ever more closely with council leaders in this joint enterprise.
“I am managing reform in line with the 2015 timetable proposed in the Programme for Government 2011-15.
“I’m currently engaged in a range of activities to develop the programme; including taking forward the necessary legislation and setting up regional implementation structures to drive the reform agenda.
“The local government reform programme is now moving into a critical implementation phase. I believe it is important that I visit each Voluntary Transition Committee to ensure that preparations are underway at a local level to ensure effective delivery of the programme.
“I am heartened from today’s visit that members of the Antrim and Newtownabbey Voluntary Transition Committee have embraced the opportunity reform is providing. They are already exploring opportunities for collaboration and joint initiatives with the end goal of providing long-term benefits for their ratepayers.”
In committing to the local government reform timetable, the Minister concluded: “I firmly believe that this reform programme offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-model local government for the greater good of councils and the citizens they serve. There is no doubt this will be challenging for us all but ratepayers and businesses should expect nothing less.”