It’s not sexy, but it’s important…

TODAY’S the day when the biggest shake-up in public administration since 1973 will be announced. It’s uncharted territory, and with the Assembly still in limbo, there are quite a few worried politicians out there. Will a seven-council Northern Ireland lead to a west-east division, with all nationalist councils west of the Bann and all unionist councils on the east – with Belfast hanging in the balance? How many jobs will go? How will our politicians tackle tricky issues like planning or community relations? And where will all the savings go – reducing rates? Ha!The Belfast Telegraph summarised the expected changes:

– All four health boards and 18 of the trusts replaced by between five and seven authorities;

– All five education area boards merged into a single new body, employing all teachers;

– All quangos scrapped or changed; and reduction of Ulster’s 26 councils to as few as seven.

The links above will take you into greater detail, and while it can be pretty dry reading, this is something that is going to affect everyone in Northern Ireland in some way.

  • The Deezer

    Has anyone else noticed in the Belfast Newsletter’s projected 7 super council map, part of N.Down has been exiled to east of the Bann ?
    or in fact dumped in lough Neagh ?

    Front page todays Newsletter.

  • idunnomeself

    what is all this nonsense about ‘the threat of a green west and orange east’

    don’t we already have that?

    At least with bigger councils the minorities will be larger.

    Scare mongering to try and get more expensive Councils and jobs fo rthe boys and nothing else. Thak goodness the NIO ignored all that rubbish and decided to do what was best for people, rather than our cozying up to the political classes.

    Now all they have to do is make Belfast Council actually represent the urban area of Belfast and I’ll be happy

    Anyone any idea about what NDPB’s are going to go?

  • Ha-ha, Deezer, yeah I saw that (although I think you meant to say ‘west of the Bann’.)

    Apparently, part of the redrawing of the boundaries will see North Down relocated to somewhere north of Cookstown! At least according to the News Letter.

    A much more pressing problem is the fact that these plans are tantamount to repartition, with the increased Balkanisation of the north. Plus, ‘super’ councils (what a misnomer) will not have the local expertise to deal with specific community issues the way our current councils can. Maybe some streamlining is needed, but not the hatchet job that is being proposed.

  • darth rumsfeld

    well let there be no more talk of the bad old days of gerrymandering. This is a rotten plan designed to ensure that the Unionist retreat from the west is encouraged, in preparation for the day when Hain thinks a united Ireland becomes logical because there has been so much harmonisation. There is no justification for lumping Magherafelt, and Limavady in with Londonderry and Strabane except to create a green super council. The Limavady area gravitates towrds Coleraine, and Magherafelt to Ballymena or Cookstown. They will be swamped by the high spending underachieving Londonderry City Council, and rated to infinity to pay for the useless Eglinton Airport, which most people in Magherafelt have probably never heard of.

    Of course there could be a Londonderry County Council, which would more accurately reflect the realities on the ground,( and coincidentally wuld also be similar to the situation in the RoI)
    but that might be a bit restrictive of the deranged Derry City council politicos, and if the city were excluded there might well be – a Unionist majority west of the Bann, and that would never do.

    Just imagine if the County Council model were revived- Unionist control of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry, Belfast City; nationalists control of Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Londonderry City Borough- with the possibility of Londonderry County and Armagh in the future, but just not as soon as Hain the Shinners’ friend would want.

    How is Carrickfergus-Lisburn going to be anything but the dregs of greater Belfast, with the bridemaid’s role in all future economic and infrastructural decisions?

    The whole thing is a sectarian carve up, and if local government is supposed to be a sectarian free zone, dealing with the bread and butter issues, this kills that stone dead

  • The Deezer

    Sorry, i did of course mean “West”, i was a bit geographically challenged after getting lost in the fog on the way to work.

  • Nestor Makhno

    ‘Local expertise’ – come on now, Matador. Just how local do you need?

    I could complain that Magherafelt District Council has little local knowledge of the realities of life in Castledawson. And you’d laugh. (But I have heard people say that.)

    The current district councils are little more than the equivalent of English parish councils – their budgets are so tiny they had no ability to do anything creative or sustainable.

    For example, there is a huge issue around European waste legislation which I’m sure is scaring the pants of most of the Councils out there who, at most, probably have only one or two members of staff available to plan for its requirements. Belfast can probably throw a whole team at it – but could we expect Moyle to deal with it? They will probably have someone wearing three of four hats trying to sort it out. “Here Fred, deal with this multi-million pound revision of our waste infrastructure – and don’t forgot, you’ve lollipop duties at 3pm.”

    There must be a balance between being locally accountable and having the necessary size to be effective. As it currently stands the balance is all wrong.

    The new ‘super’ councils are only big in a Northern Ireland context – in comparison to England they will still be compact organisations with tiny geographical reach.

  • foreign correspondent

    Won´t the new councils just reflect the almost 50-50 unionist-nationalist and west-east split that is a reality anyway? Could it be that it annoys Unionists for that very reason?

  • idunnomeself

    How is it a carve up? that’s just nonsense. stop being paranoid.

    A carve up would draw lines round the territory of each and base the councils around that. Portadown would be put in with Lisburn and bits of Banbridge and Dungannon to give a Unionist Council. That would be a carve up, is that what you want?

    Otherwise you’re just whinging.

    Political Parties have their power because people vote for them, not because of how lines are drawn on maps

  • Nestor,

    Looking at the carve up, a few examples could be:

    How could a council based in Craigavon deal with the need for refuse collection in south Armagh?

    How could a council based in Cookstown understand the needs of farmers in rural Fermanagh?

    Local government needs to be local. Smaller towns and people in rural areas lose out by this centralisation.

    The only good thing to come out of this is the ban on double-jobbing. At least with that we can have MLAs to deal with macro-issues of the constituencies. However, it would now seem that councillors will have a similar role, considering the proposed geographical spread of the councils.

  • Nestor Makhno

    I still think the scale is workable. To take your example – Cookstown is hardly an urban centre and rural Fermanagh is 30 minutes down the (admittedly pot-holed) road.

    And yes, people in Craigavon could sit down with people in Armagh to work out what to do about recycling 30% of their waste in the next few years (to avoid multi-million pound fines from Brussels).

    The structures wouldn’t prevent the setting up of mechanisms to support Councillors to gather facts about what’s happening locally.

    In my limited experience of district councils I’ve found most successful Councillors have a fair idea of the demands of their voters and know what needs to be done. They are usually stumped because the Council is the last organisation capable of doing anything about it (e.g. creating jobs, getting investment, ensuring better roads, keeping schools and hospitals open, promoting the area beyond the region – I could go on…)

  • idunnomeself

    El Mat

    You are assuming that the councils will be based right on the edge of their areas.

    And that Fermanagh farmers will elect someone to the Council unable to articulate their views.

    Even that the refuse collection issues in South Armagh are different than in North Armagh (How exactly?)

    I don’t buy it

    Anyway this is a done deal now. You’d be best moving on to what QUANGO powers you would like transferred to the new councils.

    When I was in Holywood people always complained that North Down Council was too remote- 15 minutes drive to Bangor! People will always say this and will always be ignored..

  • Conor

    what is all this ‘repartition’ about? sorry correct me if im wrong, but has N.Ireland been ‘partitioned’ before? no.