Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has launched a consultation to gauge people's views on the options available for replacing existing councillors who wish to leave office.
The Minister said: "Under the Review of Public Administration, the Executive has proposed severance arrangements as a way of recognising the contribution long serving councillors who choose to stand down, have made to their local area and to Northern Ireland as a whole.
"The consultation document puts forward a number of options for possible severance arrangements, including the calculation of the amount of money that could be paid to an individual councillor, the timing of any scheme and how the associated costs should be met.
"Consultation on severance arrangements for district councillors is one of the preliminary steps for the reorganisation of local government in 2011. Local government plays an important part in the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland and I would encourage people to take part in this consultation."
One of the schemes proposed could see councillors getting up to £36,000 to leave office if they've accrued 36 years' service at £1,000 a year. Other options put a limit at £25,000 and £20,000 respectively.
The consultation also poses the question of whether any such scheme should be introduced in January next year to enable co-opted councillors to get a year's experience before the new supercouncils are introduced in 2011, whether retiring councillors should be allowed to stand down in January 2011 (which would not facilitate co-options or by-elections) or whether the option of a pay-off should be offered in the mouth of the 2011 elections.
Other aspects look at whether councillors who are MLAs, MPs, Members of the House of Lords and MEPs should be deemed ineligible for severance; whether next of kin should receive a severance award if a councillor who applied dies before it is made; whether councillors who receive severance but then return to local government should be required to repay it in full; and whether central or local government should meet the costs of any scheme.
Talk of this has been doing the rounds for some time. Until recently, it was thought there would have been a window of opportunity perhaps between next month and September. However, as time dragged on, it was clear that this wasn't going to be the case. I heard some people suggesting that there would be no package, well at least until 2011, but the potential to see a raft of new councillors arrive on the scene within the next year now seems possible.
The closing date for the consultation is 31 May.