The reduction in the number of departments was suggested during the Stormont House Agreement. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

The DUP First Minister Peter Robinson has formally named the nine new departments that will replace the existing 12 Northern Executive departments in (...)

Eric Pickles: since he became secretary of state for communities and local government, his life has been dominated by planning regulations. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/PA

Eric Pickles, an ebullient, often blustering Yorkshireman, was given two pieces of advice by his predecessor, Sir Robert McCrindle, when(...)