Hearts and Minds: axe about to fall on the councils?

Whatever about the arguments over how many or where the lines are to be drawn there may be some goodies to come out of a re-drawn council map. Especially if they are actually to have some power. Hearts and Minds tonight asks the parties how they’ll get on with just 7 new Supercouncils.

  • harry flashman

    Perfect! A society of 1.7 million does not need so many fiddly little district councils, two or three large local councils covering the East and West and Belfast would solve everything and even do away with any need for a “parliament” in Stormont.

    The eradication of layers of government is always a constructive, progressive move forward.

  • smcgiff

    ‘The eradication of layers of government is always a constructive, progressive move forward.’

    Sounds like something a dictator would say! 🙂

  • Mick


    Zero to Godwin’s Law in two posts! That’s got to be a Slugger record?

  • smcgiff

    ‘Zero to Godwin’s Law in two posts! That’s got to be a Slugger record?’

    Actually, I was going to say Hitler, but didn’t for that very reason. I thought Godwin’s law specifically related to the Nazis. I don’t imagine Pol Pot was too fond of decentralised power! 😉

    If so, my bad!

  • harry flashman

    Jeez how d’yall work that out? I’m a libertarian who is instintively opposed to state interference but you reckon that makes me a dictator.

    Now let me get my brain around this; dictators actually personify statism and state domination of the individual. I seek the eradication of state control, the abolition of layers of beurocracy and advocate individual freedom and individual responsibilty and smcgiff reckons I want a dictatorship, can anyone help me here?

  • Mick

    I was struggling with that too Harry. You might get some opposition after the programme goes out!

  • smcgiff

    ‘can anyone help me here?’

    Certainly – just google 🙂


  • Henry94


    The elimination of layers of government while maintaining the power of government is an argument for the concentration of power. From your first post it looked like that’s what you wanted.

    Of course a libertarian wants a reduction in state power but the question remains as to how that power is distributed or concentrated.

    Reducing the number of councils does not appear to be a particularly libertarian policy.

  • Pete Baker

    The problem that I have with your enthusiasm for this, harry, is that they’re not eradicating a layer of government.. they’re attempting to consolidate and expand its powers.. and place it further away from any semblance of local accountability.

  • Jo

    Giving with one hand taking away with another.

    The chance of the 7 councils sticking with precisely the same responsibilities as now is somewhat unlikely in my view.

    One option is for the set of services currently provided or facilitated by DRD Roads Service to be allocated across the new council areas, as these would provide economy of scale not provided by the current 26 small council areas.

    This in effect would be a return to the old days of the pre-1973 “council workmen” digging up the roads! Full circle time, folks.

  • Mickhall

    Jeez how d’yall work that out? I’m a libertarian who is instintively opposed to state interference but you reckon that makes me a dictator.

    posted by harry flashman

    Libertarian my arse, you seem to me to be just another US influenced right wing supporter of neo-liberal economics. Basically you want small government as far as the social wage is concerned so that business can run riot without responsibility and you and your pals can lick up the gravy other people have produced.

    Now if im wrong about this please tell me, but before you do, will you answer this, do you also want the state to abolish its armed forces and police and close all its prisons?

    It seems to me by creating ever larger local governments whilst abolishing smaller units, which will inevitably have more power than the smaller units they replace, you are advocating exactly the opposite of what you claim, i e you are advocating more not less bigger governance.

    all the best.

  • Jo

    Usually calls for lesser government and slashing of public spending do not include cutting police forces, military spending or the like. A rather selective view of where tax money should go, generally.

  • I have it from a reliable source that the Brits will be announcing 7 councils on Monday.

    The SDLP are going ballistic as are the Unionists, they are all looking 15 councils.

  • Jo


    The Brits? Ahem! You mean those who are temporarily administering the Crown offices vacacted by SF? 😉

  • No, I mean the Brits 😉

  • stu

    Meh- I think 7 councils will cut it. They’ll be big enough to benefit from larger areas, bigger budgets etc. which will hopefully be translated into better services. As was noted in the other thread on the topic, Belfast desperately needs to expand, the system now is wildly innefficient (although this has as much to do with silly bickering as it does the size, perhaps the larger forum will thrust some sort of sense of responsibilty on the shiftless layabouts) and the counties are a reasonable administrative size each.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m a libertarian who is instintively opposed to state interference but you reckon that makes me a dictator.

    Harry, if I recall correctly you supported the war in Iraq, which means that you are in favour of state interference – provided that it is interference in other people’s countries.

    The “7 councils” thing has been on the cards as the most likely option ever since this review started way back when. I’m personally completely in favour of it; we’ve got far too many councils, far too many fat cat politicians larding it up on the expense account.

    In the absence of the return of a power sharing government, increasing local powers and accountability cannot be a bad thing. I’d like to see our politicians work for a living, for a change.

  • ch in texas

    “I’m personally completely in favour of it; we’ve got far too many councils, far too many fat cat politicians larding it up on the expense account. ”

    My, Comrade, you’re starting to sound just like Reagan, God bless him!

  • I am also in favour of the 7 council option CS

  • slug@hotmail.com

    I am in favour of the 7 council plan too.

  • Henry Fitzpatrick

    The 7 council option is *far* better than status quo. And of course, only a Westminster cabinet minister would have had the guts to take this decision, as none of local pygmies could have risen above petty self-interest (‘but what about Joe McJob, he’s been a cllt for years and he’s *bound* to lose his seat if we abolish Ballygobackwards DC’ &c).

    BUT 8 would have been a much improved option still, as no argument that makes for a proper Belfast metropolitan area (which I fully support) should deny Londonderry the same dignity. Naturally, though, the NIO can’t be bothered with the amount of whingeing an 8 council model would lead to (ie whilst a Greater Derry City metropolitan council would be overwhelmingly nationalist, and the rump county council would be safely enough Unionist, one Londonderry council [ie city and county tout court] will narrowly but firmly go green, which will keep nationalists sectarian headcounters a lot happier than the far more logical split under 8 would).

  • slug

    Henry – its not being done on a county basis.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ch in texas, it’s not a big deal really and it certainly isn’t Reaganomics. We’ve got a vast public sector here, along with a huge amount of unnecessary government. Meanwhile, money is tight in places where it is needed, such as education; and everyone is being hit with massive local taxation increases and the introduction of water charges. There is a real appetite in NI to start calling time on the politicians and their cushy jobs.

    CG, I’m glad we agree.

  • Pete Baker

    Perhaps a slight kink in the considerations under discussion..

    Does anyone believe that councillors in these new super-councils will be content on the current levels of allowances available? How long before that level of pay becomes the same as in other councils, in the UK, with other expenses to be factored in later..

  • Mick Fealty

    Very sketchy impressions from the discussion:

    No one from UUP on the programme. Sinn Fein not going to sign off the RPA until Stormont is back. Little Mervyn Storey said contradicted that idea. Patricia Lewsley is not keen on local power without checks and balances on equality.

    Storey’s keen on get some kind of local control over planning issues. Sinn Fein wants to keep the current number of councillors. All agreed that education should stay with Stormont. Interesting that the CCMS governing body of Catholic schools may move in the way that’s been suggested. That it becomes an advisory body, and not a statutary employing body for Catholic schools. More from Pete in the next thread.

  • Pete Baker

    At least it wasn’t quite as pointless and orchestrated a panel discussion as the one on Let’s Talk[sic], Mick.. or the one on Newsnight.. about blogs.. sheesh.

  • slug

    I don’t think it matters if a single party doesn’t “sign off” on the RPA. Remember that Direct Rule does not require this.

    Actually thats the good thing about Direct Rule. Only central government can take on vested interests in this way.

  • harry flashman

    It seems a quick explanation of one’s politacal viewpoints is required here. A libertarian seeks to claw back the rights and responsibilities of the individual (note the ‘responsibilities’ bit, very important) that have been taken or given away over the past century or so and handed to the government. I believe that government is inherently inefficient and people’s dependency on the government is invariably debilitating as the briefest glance at Northern Ireland will confirm.

    A libertarian seeks the readjustment back to the original ‘social contract’ model in which the citizen agrees to accept government in return for the government fulfilling two basic criteria, they defend the borders (ie have an army) and keep the peace within the borders (ie enact laws and justice, today that means having a police force running the courts and probably maintaining a fire service). I hope this clears up Mickhall’s confusion, an anarchist would abolish even these functions I most assuredly am not an anarchist. Whilst I wouldn’t close prisons I don’t automatically assume they should be owned by the government but have no real objection if they are.

    To my mind almost all other functions in society can be better organised by private citizens co-operating together, and yes I do mean that schools and hospitals which are privately run are vastly better than the state monopolies with which we are currently encumbered. anyone who disagrees with me clearly has had no experience of either or is actually in the pay of the state and is therefore biased.

    As a libertarian of course I also believe in many issues about which so-called conservatives would have a fit of the vapours. I support a woman’s right to choose, I am very opposed to censorship so pornography is fine by me, if people want to take illegal drugs well it’s their funeral, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is no concern of the government but I also believe in the right of the free citizen to arm himself if he wishes and also agree that if a society votes for the death penalty then their votes should be accepted. If you disagree with how a particular society is run then you are free to move to another one more congenial to your tastes. A statist doesn’t believe in choice and wants to impose his uniformity on others whose opinions he does not share.

    As for Iraq I have no recollection of discussing it here, if I’m wrong then I stand corrected, if the topic crops up again I’ll be sure to air my personal viewpoint then.

  • Alan

    Let’s hope we get 7 with an expanded Belfast – you know it makes sense!

    It is good to see the level of support on this thread for the stepping away from tribalism that the decision to go for 7 represents.

  • Jo

    Having seen the proposed boundaries of the 7 council structure and the Unionist councils hemmed into the exteme north east (P41 of the RPA), I would wonder if the psychological implications of such “terroritorial conquest” has impressed the SF political elite?

  • Richard

    Can you elaborate on, roughly, what the boundaries are? Eg, are Strabane, Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh & Fermanagh to be one? How is Londonderry (city and county) to be treated? Will Newry & Mourne be carved up between reborn Down and Armagh? What will the names be?
    Also, while there has been interesting discussion on headcount, etc., there has been little discussion of how these new councils will embed themselves in the psyche of those they are to govern. If they are too artificial and lump areas that have no real connection with one another then this will not augur well. The English experience gave us such monsters as Humberside, Avon and Cleveland which are now distant memories… Views, anyone?

  • Jo

    Richard if you draw a diagonal line from Magilligan to Newcastle, thats approximately it.

    The 3 councils west of that line would be predominantly Nationalist.

    Fermanagh/part Tyrone

    Derry city, all of Derry county bar Coleraine

    Newry/Mourne/Armagh/C’avon/Banbridge areas.


  • GavBelfast

    I would go for 8 as well – Belfast City, Derry City and then one for each county (County Londonderry of course, so a compromise on the name issue!).

    26 is ridiculous and 15 only slightly less so.

    The myriad of boards, etc, is at least as unnecessary and hopefully this will be addreessed, too.

  • Fraggle

    These new councils will be the beginning of repartition – prediction.

  • Jo


    Looking at the maps I thought that as well. The glaring anomaly is as always the presence of belfast in the cenre of 3 larger Unionist controlled areas.

    Geographically though the greening of the south and west would be complete.

  • George

    there is always the German partition model with a transit route to an Irish enclave in Belfast, similar to Berlin but without the border guards naturally as the border would be open.

    The Northern Ireland state could charge billions a year for the Republic to keep the transit route open like the East Germans did to West Germany and use that money to compensate for any loss of subsidies.

  • slug

    Does anyone seek repartition?

  • Richard


    Thanks for the link and the run through. The boundaries look a bit daft to me, IMHO.

    Anyway, I think it quite amusing that the DUP, SDLP, UUP and Alliance are all opposing this. If devolution had been in place at the moment (and I am not according blame on any one party or on any one section of the community for this not happening) then those parties could, surely, have implemented the RPA as they saw fit, rather than Mr Hain implementing it as he sees fit (with his consequent disregard for local political feeings, etc)?

    I am not impressed with Hain as SoS, I have to say.

  • Jo


    I dont know, anyone out there mad enough, she asked expecting the resounding answer “YES”!


    Thatd be the M1 maintenance take care of then.


    They dont really oppose it as long as

    The number of councillors stays roughtly the same (LOL)

    The Assembly gets to have a say.

  • George

    “dont know, anyone out there mad enough, she asked expecting the resounding answer “YES”!”

    Where’s Barnshee when you need him? Probably embedded in his ordinance survey maps with his marker.

    could the transit route not be the M1, which would, of course, be the M2 north of the border. God forbid, the roads have the same numbering. That would be too much to stomach.

    Or maybe we could have two transit routes? One unionist, one nationalist so they’d never have to pass each on the road. Naturally, the Republic would have to pay for both.

  • Alan

    Just a technical point.

    Do you think there’s any way that Government Information bods could start to commission .PDF’s with more content ( bookmarks and internal links etc). PDF’s need not just be photos of the publication. It would make using the documents much easier. I know it increases the file size, but when you are regularly toiling through these brutes it is a royal pain in the ****.

    I don’t think I’ve actually come across a Government .PDF file that has pages that correspond to contents or indices.

  • Jo


    Especially with the RPA, its massive! Size is important!

  • Fraggle

    Thanks for the map Jo. Repartition will come about when it becomes obvious that stormont won’t work. Be honest, who ever thought that stormont government would work? They could hardly agree on a bin collection rota let alone run a region.

    The government will give the councils more powers. The three southern/western councils will gravitate to the republic. The republic will be only too happy to work with them eg. City of Derry Airport.

    So we see the new border at last.

  • Observer

    Even with a smooth repartition, the remaining Uk counties/councils (Antrim etc) would still need to be administered by someone, so there’d still be either Stormont or direct rule. All the bureaucracy, for half of the people- not very efficient, that!

  • George

    As long as the British government keeps paying, who will care in Antrim, Down etc? Same number of public jobs but only half the applicants and half the work. I’m moving north.

  • Fraggle

    Observer, they can be run like another scottish island for all I care. Northern ireland isn’t efficient as things stand and repartition would give some of us chance, joining a vibrant wealthy economy and escaping the dependance of the present economy here.

  • ch in texas

    Comrade Stalin says “We’ve got a vast public sector here, along with a huge amount of unnecessary government.”

    Now I see what you mean CS. 26 councils, plus a sometimes parl. plus direct rule, all for less than 2 million people.

    Cutting down to 7 would be great, however I think you’ll need Tom DeLay to hammer those boundries into place.

    How can NI ever hope to market itself on the world economy where capital gravitates to effeciency?

  • Moderate Unionist

    Of course if we go with 7 we will need parish councils to keep in touch with the “people”… so not less government but more.

  • ch in texas

    Moderate Unionist, Do you want gerrymandering to keep Belfast Unionist?

  • Animus

    Whatever number of councils is announced next Tuesday, the boundaries will be decided at a later date by an independent Boundary Commission. There are a number of 7 council possibilities. I think it’s important to decide the number of councils first and hammer out other details later, as the number of councils has further implications for the number of other bodies (health for example) It makes sense to have 7 co-terminous health bodies, but ridiculous to have 11 of each.

    Harry, your grand pronouncements always make me laugh, typical libertarian – my way or the high way (joking). I disagree that privatisation always leads to the best possible service – for many it ends up polarising services so it’s the best for a few and nothing or mediocrity for everyone else.

  • aquifer

    Give the councils enough power and maybe people will pay more attention to what the councillors actually do, rather than look at the flag they wrap around themselves at election time. Watch out for the planning scandals though.

  • Cynic

    Just a tiny thought.

    At 1.6 million people we are two thirds the size of Manchester. Why do we need all these layers. Given all the back biting over boundaries why not just have one council for NI.

    It could be elected on PR. We could then scrap all the Boards, Agencies, Quangos and save a fortune on administration. We could even base it at Stormont and call it an Assembly to persuade everyone that its not just a District Council.

    Even better, having something to do (and to be transparently accountable for) instead of just talking about politics might concentrate some political minds …..which, of course, is why noone is talking about it as an option

  • Comrade Stalin

    ch in texas, I assume that comment about Tom DeLay was some kind of joke. I only know what I see on the news, but it sounds like we need less of that sort of person, not more. On the other hand, give me Rudy Guiliani any day .. he’d soon kick this place into touch.

    How can NI ever hope to market itself on the world economy where capital gravitates to effeciency?

    In the way that it did when it was home to the largest shipbuilder in the world. Get rid of the half the politicians (and their corresponding pork barrel agendas) and crack down on the paramilitaries; make this place safe for people who don’t want anything to do with paramilitarism or politics. Fix that, and you’ll have an economic powerhouse to rival anything else in these islands.

  • ch in texas

    Comrade Stalin, Yea, I mentioned Delay to get a rise outa ya. Actually, he got his shirt tail caught in the ringer with the party opposite in the redrawing of counsil lines. This was needed, b/c Texas was majority (American) republician, but the majority of our House members were democrats. So, move a line here or there on a map, and voila, more republicians in the House!

    It sounds like that’s the situation in NI. 7 councils makes sense, but who gets to draw the lines is a real problem.

  • Comrade Stalin

    you’re a cheeky divil 🙂

    The “who gets to draw the lines” question is a tricky one. Much of our conflict here at the moment can be traced to a failure to provide the right answer.

  • slug

    Retrning to the questions at hand I would like to see the number of MLAs decrease to 3 per constituency (plus a list system of a further 10). Also I’d like to see the number of ministries go down to 5.

  • Comrade Stalin

    slug, actually I’d like to see the number of MLAs decrease to zero until the assembly is actually up and running again.

    When it is running the assembly could do with a bit of a tweak, but let’s wait until we getting it back and running in a stable way first.

  • “slug, actually I’d like to see the number of MLAs decrease to zero until the assembly is actually up and running again. “

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Comrade.

  • barnshee

    “Does anyone believe that councillors in these new super-councils will be content on the current levels of allowances available? How long before that level of pay becomes the same as in other councils, in the UK, with other expenses to be factored in later.. ”

    If they don`t like it tell them fo fuck off -NOBODY is making them stand for election. Let them find their own self agrandissment and meddling.