Loss of local identity…

As one wit put it, the new council areas are strange to stay the least. The massive council that stands to include Lisburn at one end Carrick at the other looks like a giant banana. The two places have were once connected by Antrim County Council, but little in recent times. In parts of England there remains three tiers of local government> County, District, and Parish. The former two having real powers, and the last using tiny budgets, but in being closest to the ground, it gives some permanent consultative bodies.

  • slug

    Bizarre.

    Ballymena and Antrim are separated despite the fact they are 10 miles apart and very closely connected by dual carridgeway and have been viewed as a unit by the planning authrorities since the Wilson report of the 1960s.

    Ballymena uses Antrim hospital for example and the services of the area are best thought of as a unit. I think it would be better to have joined Ballymena, Antrim, Larne and Carrickfergus in a South Antrim council. We all share the Antrim hospital and have lots of transport issues in common along the M2 and northern rail lines.

    (Then Coleraine and the North Coast would make another sensible unit, not including Ballymena. Coleraine is a separate unit with its own hospital that Ballymena doesn’t use.)

  • Fraggle

    I’d have though just two councils could have done the trick. Those two on the left making up one and the four on the right the other. Then give the two councils all the powers Stormont would have. Perfect solution.

  • Nestor Makhno

    I think the real loser in these plans will be Belfast. It looks like it will remain the same – despite the fact that urban Belfast proper has grown well beyond the current boundaries.

    I can’t imagine there is any rational explanation why urban Castlereagh will not be part of Belfast – apart from the ‘political head count’ argument.

    People will commute to work to Belfast from the Lisburn ‘banana’ and use Belfast’s services. But they will live and pay rates elsewhere – thus undermining Belfast’s revenue base (something which has happened in most US cities – and where the solution has been to expand the city’s boundaries to include this outlying ‘banana’.)

    These plans will instead encourage businesses to set up in the banana where rural rates will always be lower; it will encourage ‘mall style’ retailing; it will gobble up green field land – while there is loads of brownfield land in Belfast proper. It will cause traffic and commuter conjestion to get even worse.

    It will also undermine Belfast as a proper city – and I would argue – i turn undermine Northern Ireland as a region. Northern Ireland needs Belfast to be successful – international investors and tourists want to see a modern city that has the social, cultural, technological and transport infrastructure required.

    Belfast City Council will get development and regeneration powers – but what’s the point in having them if a large wadge of Belfast remains strategically beyond its control?

  • slug

    I agree Nestor.

    The ‘banana’ is daft.

    Amalgamiating your point and mine (about Ballymena and Antrim’s traditional symbiosis) would sugest geting rid of the banana by (i) expanding Belfat and (ii) putting Antrim and Carrickfergus with Ballymena. If this takes us down to 6 councils that might be better.

  • Nestor Makhno

    Agreed slug.

    Sadly, I suspect it wasn’t dispassionate urban planners and economic experts who had the last say in this carve up.

    I agree on the need for a larger scale – but it is only of benefit if the new administrative geography can match the existing social, economic and physical geographies – each of which have developed more or less naturally over a few hundred years – and can’t be easily ignored or changed (at least not without considerable expense).

    Craigavon was an historical lesson in what happens when you try to impose such an artificial construct.

    However, I think we would probably be wasting our time trying to discern rational thinking in this decision – political expediency is at work here.

  • The Thinker

    Look on the bright side. We`ll see the end of Lisburn council, the closest thing to a throwback to 1950`s Alabama, with its anti-Catholism and extreme rightwing Wasp fundamentalism.

  • crategus

    I agree with Nestor

    If there were any logic Belfast would be the area encompassed by the Belfast Metropolitan Plan and if more than 50 councillors are then needed fine. It is then easier to divide the rest up, but ofcourse the is no real logic.

    I have real doubts about the wisdom of getting rid of the existing councils as the cost and disruption will be enormous and in my opinion the existing councils actually work, have a sense of purpose and some civic pride. The problem is they have inadequate power. I can see absolutely no reason why more responsibility can not be devolved to what is there and works. What sense is there in giving councillors control over areas that are outside their immediate interest and knowledge? Are councillors to be full time and paid? I think this proposal is a real dilution of LOCAL democracy.

    The real inefficiencies are not in council expenditure, but in the areas of administration not done by the councils. The multiplicity of departments and quangos with similar roles is where the savings are to be made.

    The reorganisation of councils could in itself cause major disruption and cost. Moving staff, logos, selling all those new Council buildings or extending ones that are to be kept, redesigning websites, letter headings, forms, information leaflets, Road signs etc etc etc. The cost is enormous.

    The other waste of money is of course the Assembly.

    In a word heinous.

    Crategus