Seven is the magic number…

IAN Pearson’s supercomputer has done its number-crunching and decided that SEVEN is the magic number of councils for NI. Assuming each has 50 members, that would mean 350 councillors – and getting rid of 200 elected representatives. Personally, as a Belfast resident, I’m really looking forward to taking on Castlereagh Council’s debt in my rates…

  • Alan

    Seven seems the right number, however there must be room for flexibility. We cannot simply have an arbitrary figure of 250,000 head of population, there must be some rationale to the geographical division.

    We should take the opportunity to establish a strong Belfast Metropolitan Council by bringing in at least Castlereagh and Newtonabbey. We must also consider taking in the contiguous built up areas of Lisburn (such as Twin Brook, Dunmurray and Poleglass)as well. It is about time that Belfast was given the opportunity to draw upon all of those communities.

    This would mean increasing the suggested population size, while increasing the number of Councillors proportionally.

  • ulsterman

    A great decision. The IRA will soon be kicked up the ass and out of power in Belfast. 7 Unionist councils will be created. The nationalists can enjoy their place in the sun while they can. The future belongs to the Ulster Protestant Nation. Onward we march to the ultimate victory. We must defeat the Pope.

    God Save The Queen.

  • maca

    And that’s the news from Planet Bigot. Meanwhile back on Earth…

  • Yank in Ulster

    With supercomputers and technocrats, who needs politicians and elections? Oh yeah, it’s called accountability…

    This grand design would make a Communist politburo proud.

  • J Kelly

    7 unionist controlled councils I dont think so. West of the bann all green, southdown, south armagh and growing. The Ulster Protestant Nation is srinking or is that sinking. Those days are gone.

  • Keith M

    Can someone please explain the “logic” of having all councillors the same size / same population base? It doesn’t apply in the rest of the U.K. or in this country.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Would anyone really object in principle if the new councils were drawn along county boundaries? Six county councils, a metropolitan council in Belfast and perhaps a city council in Derry?

    (The only serious flaw in this plan is that it would just be too obvious, too close to common sense and in too much danger of being popular for the mandarins at Stormont, to whom a two-fingered gesture to the population is an end in itself.)

    I know the populations differ – dramatically in the case of Co Fermanagh – but counties are long-established and deeply ingrained concepts. People have a sense of identity with Co Armagh/Fermanagh/Tyrone/Derry/Down/Antrim.

    What the hell would you even call a council comprising, say Dungannon, Cookstown, Magherafelt and Armagh?

  • Fraggle

    Billy, what are they going to call the council due north of tyrone if they go by county name?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Toss a coin, call it either Derry county council or Londonderry county council, then let the ancient quarrel continue. You know it will anyway.

  • Keith M

    I agree with Billy P, the counties were one of the most effective and longest lasting contributions the English made to this country. There is still an affinity to them long after they became redundant. I would go with six couny councils and 2 city corporations for Befast and (London)Derry and use a rule of thumb of the number of councillors per head of population. Even 350 seems too high to me given that there is a bicameral national legislature and (hopefully) a regional assembly.

  • Alan

    Revenue is the important thing here. Would, for instance, Fermanagh be viable without Dungannon? What value would Crumlin see with a Council in, say, Coleraine?

    Also it’s only right that the east of the country subsidise the west in order to recognise peripherality and additional travel needs.

  • ulsterman

    With Newtownabbey and Castlereagh in Belfast the DUP will be in power in Belfast. O’Donnell and his IRA murdering cohorts will become an irrelevance. Antrim, Londonderry,Down and Armagh will all have hugh Unionist majorities. Fermanagh and Tyrone will be toss ups but the Unionists shoud be able to win county wide elections.

    The capital city of the Ulster Protestant Nation will be Unionist once more. The Papal flag will no longer fly in City Hall. The Pope will have been defeated.

    God Save The Queen.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Ulsterman.

    LOL. Very good.

    Loved these lines: “Antrim, Londonderry,Down and Armagh will all have hugh (sic) Unionist majorities.”

    Population-wise, Armagh and Derry don’t have huge unionist majorities. Down wouldn’t be a huge majority either, I wouldn’t think.

    “Fermanagh and Tyrone will be toss ups but the Unionists shoud be able to win county wide elections.”

    Well put. The glory days of the gerrymander echoing through to the present day…

    Alan.

    “Revenue is the important thing here.”

    Revenue is important but I don’t agree that it should be the decisive issue. Councils that people can identify with, get their heads around and take ownership of should be what we’re striving for. Fermanagh and Dungannon wouldn’t make any sense for either: for one thing you’d be breaking up Tyrone, which is a perfectly viable entity in its own right. And anyway, population-wise only Fermanagh is problematically out of sync with the other counties, but with Fermanagh it matters much less. Co Fermanagh already has a geographically complete county council – you’d just be changing the title from district to county council and beefing up its powers.

    “What value would Crumlin see with a Council in, say, Coleraine?”

    Sorry to be a stickler, but Crumlin is in Antrim, Coleraine is in Derry…

    But I take your point. Bangor and Newry might be in the same county but there’s more than the length of Co Down between them. Similarly councillors from Mourneview in Lurgan or Brownstown in Portadown would make interesting council colleagues for members from Crossmaglen or Mullabawn.

    That said, county councils might have the effect of bringing these places closer together? We might find quite quickly that Crumlin and Bushmills, Strabane and the Moy have more in common than previously suspected?

    If we were to have six county councils, where do you think the county `capitals’ would be?

    I’d go for this:

    Antrim – Ballymena
    Armagh – Armagh city
    Fermanagh – Enniskillen
    Tyrone – Omagh
    Derry – Limavady
    Down – Banbridge

    Any thoughts?

  • idunnomeself

    well now the residents of Castlereagh will have to pay for the facilities in Belfast they use anyway..

    They’re going to scream about this- it’ll have to be pushed through.

    BP, why not the county towns?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Idunnomeself

    What are the county towns? Are there such things any more? Do they exist anywhere other than in those quixotic tourist brochures?

    I set aside Belfast and Derry, assuming that they would have city councils of their own. Big assumption I know, but I’m going with the 8 council model, so there.

    Antrim – Ballymena.

    Geographically ideal, being as it is smack bang in the middle of the county and well served by transport links. It’s one of the biggest towns in the county – the biggest? (Besides Belfast obviously.) Lisburn might also have a good shout but you’re a long way from the north coast there, and notwithstanding its little big man protestations of city status, does anyone really see it as anything other than an addendum to Belfast?

    Armagh – Armagh city

    Again, geographically central, easily accessible, lovely council facilities (an actual palace!). Is of untouchable historical resonance. Also, would be considered an acceptable venue for everyone in the county. The south Armagh contingent would feel like they were on another – and quite hostile – planet in Craigavon/Portadown/Lurgan. Similarly the north Armagh crowd would be making quite a trip down to Newry or Crossmaglen.
    (Plus it’s my home town, and it could do with a boost.)

    Fermanagh – Enniskillen

    Don’t think there’s another serious contender, is there?

    Tyrone – Omagh

    I suppose this would be the natural county town? You’re looking at Cookstown or more likely Dungannon in the east, Strabane in the west – both a long way from the other. Omagh is central, and just seems the most logical somehow.

    Derry – Limavady

    There’s a serious claim of course for Coleraine, but it’s less central. Also Limavady, like Armagh, is a town which is not anyone’s perceived territory.

    Down – Banbridge

    Down is the trickiest one. Newry and Bangor would be the largest towns but they’re a long, long way from each other, in more ways than one. People in Newry don’t have many frames of reference when it comes to Bangor. I daresay people in Bangor wouldn’t automatically think of Newry either as their capital. Newcastle and Downpatrick would also make good capitals but they’re pretty much out of the way. Banbridge is central and well serviced by transportation links. Unfortunately it’s a fairly uninspiring town – whereas all the four I have named above are much more impressive places – so it’s really just a question of whether geography should be the trumping factor.

    Any thoughts?

  • idunnomeself

    Well Downpatrick strikes me as obvious for Down, it’s the historical and ecclesticial capital, is central and is (to be grubby and Secterian for a moment cause lets face it our political parties are) it’s on the fault line between the Prod and Catholic bits of Down. I don’t think either Bangor or Newry would actually seriously consider themselves contenders. I could’ve just cut and pasted what you said about Armagh though..

    The case for Antrim is less strong, but it is still a central place, the historic county town and not a Unionist citadel, like Ballymena. OK maybe I should say ‘not-so-much a citadel’.. Ballymena on the other hand is more riral, and as much of the densly populated southern bits of Antrim will be inside the new ‘Belfast’ COuncil, it might make more sense.

    As for Londonderry- if the decision is made to split City from County (which would make the city a very small and lightweight council), I’d go with Coleraine: university, service centre, natural hub. Limavady isn’t any of these.

    With you on Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh.

    I see the Councils have already started to complain. I hope they are roundly ignored..