The new (nameless) councils

So the new (proposed) councils have been set. In theory at least these proposals (including boundaries) are open to discussion and consultation, but considering we are several iterations into this process it seems unlikely that we are going to see anything major change. There are one or two things worthy of note:uncil 1: North Down, Castlereagh, Ards, Down. Almost all of the old County council re-assembled. 1185 km and population 279,883.

Council 2: Carrickfergus, Antrim, Newtownabbey, Lisburn. The banana county, which runs from Moira in the west to Carrick in the east. 1108km and population 274,714

Council 3: Larne, Moyle, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine. Much of the old County Antrim, with the exception of Coleraine, which was in the old Co Derry. 2176km and population 188,584.

Council 4: Londonderry, Limavady, Magherafelt, Strabane. Fairly solidly nationalist. 2453 km and population 215,516

Council 5: Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh, Fermanagh. Bit of bad blood here over the hospitals controversy, this constituency is nearly twice the physical size of most of the others. 3979 km and population 188,584

Council 6: Banbridge, Craigavon, Newry & Mourne, Armagh. If there is a mixed constituency outside Belfast, this is it. Protestant north and Catholic south. 2392km and population 263,384.

Council 7: Belfast City (no changes to existing boundaries are proposed) On the seven constituency model, if parity of population is the largest concern, then it’s hard to see how this, the second largest, constituency could have ported more in. 115 kms and population 277, 399

  • idunnomeself

    Mick

    The boundary comission will look at the boundaries. Belfast could grow into the suburbs yet.

    If South Down mounted a campaign to move into Down away from Newry this review could mean 5 Unionist and 2 Nationalist, if you care about these sorts of things.

    While it’s good fun reading tea leaves it’s not the way to organise how local services are delivered!

  • slug

    Ballymena uses Antrim hospital and has always been bapred with Antrim. It looks south towards Belfast.

    Therefore, the banana council should become a more sensible shape by losing Lisburn and adding Ballymena and Larne. True, this Antrim council would be large, but it would make sense as a unit.

    That would leave the Coleraine council a bit small but that could be fixed by gaining Limavady (and that makes sense since Limavady looks to Coleraine). This council would be a “North Coast” council comprising Moyle to Limavady – quite sensible.

  • idunnomeself

    Armagh etc:

    total%
    28,69123DUP
    24,73820UUP
    29,05124SDLP
    31,26925SF
    16701ALLIANCE
    6,6685IND
    1550WP
    8631Green
    123,105100

    Finely balanced, Independents holding casting votes.

    Would probably all come down to wards, personality and the independents- which you could only guess at here.

    Who called this a solid green constituency?

  • slug

    Idunnomyself: I agreee. I did a tally showing that nationalist vote is about 49% (just under half) and the number of nationalist councillors is just shy of a majority. It could be a hung council, or have a slight nationalist majority, depending on how the boundaries are drawn, whether nationalism declines or cedes votes to non-nationlaist parties, and how the population changes. The population is hard to call since e.g. Banbridge has been growing at such a rapid rate lately. This is actually quite an dynamic council area.

  • idunnomeself

    sorry, formatting.. try:

    28,691- 23%DUP
    24,738- 20%UUP
    29,051- 24%SDLP
    31,269- 25%SF
    1670- 1% ALLIANCE
    6,668- 5%IND
    155- 0% WP
    863- 1% Green
    123,105- 100%

    Although Alliance look small they (and the greens are very concentrated votes- and they may well pick up seats. anyone know what the independents are? (Craigavon and Newry mainly)

  • Crateagus

    Why worry about making the population of each council equal and why have the same number of councillors for each? It is not MPs that will be elected for the area but a number of councillors and that can vary depending on the population..

    The current limits of Belfast are bizarre. I believe the boundary with Castllereagh is Ladas Drive. It is utterly crazy that the upper parts of Cregagh, Saintfield and Castlereagh are not in Belfast. There are similar problems in the North and West of the City. Would it really matter if Belfast had a population of 400000 and some of the others a little less?

    Adding Lisburn to Newtownabbey & Carrick and Antrim is unbelievable. They have absolutely nothing in common and are separated geographically by Divis. How is that council supposed to produce some cohesive identity and development strategy?

    You need rational units; that should be the prime consideration not balancing the size.

    This is poorly conceived and will end in grief.

    Crateagus

  • slug

    “Adding Lisburn to Newtownabbey & Carrick and Antrim is unbelievable. They have absolutely nothing in common and are separated geographically by Divis. How is that council supposed to produce some cohesive identity and development strategy? ”

    I agree.

    Antrim, Newtownabbey, Carrick make a more sensible unit with Ballymena and Larne – look at the road and rail links and the traditional closeness of these places. I live in this area and see this as a sensible unit, e.g. the railways and hospitals and transport (commuting) issues are all in common. We don’t look to Lisburn which you often drive through Belfast to get to given the geography.

    Lisburn is on a very different road and rail corridor to Banbridge, Newry and Craigavon. That grouping would make sense as being all connected together as a community.

    Ballymena does not look north to Coleraine much and we use the corridor to Antrim all the time.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Crateagus

    I agree with a lot of what you say. I personally have long been in favour of creating seven councils – the six counties and Belfast. I agree that there should be no strict necessity that all the councils have equal population – Fermanagh, for example, may be relatively tiny but it has a distinct and coherent identity. I believe that the same is true of all the counties. That’s something that should have been taken into consideration but frankly, it’s also something most likely to be beyond the ken of a direct rule minister.

    Equally true is that the present outer boundaries of Belfast are totally anachronistic. I believe they were drawn up in the mid Victorian era when, no doubt, they made a modicum of sense, but in this day and age it’s ridiculous. You head past the roundabout at the top of the Ormeau and suddenly you’re not in Belfast any more? Bizarre – but sadly typical, frankly.

    “Adding Lisburn to Newtownabbey & Carrick and Antrim is unbelievable. They have absolutely nothing in common and are separated geographically by Divis. How is that council supposed to produce some cohesive identity and development strategy?”

    Absolutely right. Thing is, this guy doesn’t care. No direct rule minister does. Think of this plan as a calculated insult – the first of however many it takes to get unionism to the table.

    “You need rational units; that should be the prime consideration not balancing the size.”

    I can’t help smiling at this though. I mean, we live in the most irrational political state on the planet!

    “This is poorly conceived and will end in grief.”

    Jesus, it’s like 1921 all over again!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Incidentally, any ideas about where the new county “capitals” will be? Or indeed what these new council areas will be called?

    Antrim, Downpatrick, Armagh, Omagh, Derry and Coleraine would be my best guesses. (All the old county towns, with the exception of Enniskillen, natch.)

  • Mick Fealty

    Downpatrick was once the county town. But if this comes out of political horse trading, it’s hard to see they’ll get much support from the other parts of ‘new Down’.

  • I’d vote for calling the councils Rohan, The Shire, Mirkwood etc…

  • let’s call council 3 Mordor 😉

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “Downpatrick was once the county town. But if this comes out of political horse trading, it’s hard to see they’ll get much support from the other parts of ‘new Down’.”

    You’re assuming that there will be some political horse trading. Why would you assume that? There’s nothing in the political culture here that would suggest the parties are yet mature enough for a bit of good old-fashioned political skulduggery in the members’ bar.

    In fact the whole reason this council carve-up is happening is because the British government are dealing with a undevolved Northern Ireland and a unionist leadership that prefers to carp from the sidelines while the place festers, rather than “touch the unclean thing”. Just like it was in 1973.

    The British government didn’t ask any of the parties what they wanted in 1973, and they didn’t pay any heed to anyone this time either. What on earth makes you think they’ll let the local parties have a say even on the bauble of council capital?

    I mean, the reason this has come up at all is because Northern Ireland has proven itself incapable yet again of sustaining normal politics. Why on earth would anyone assume that is about to change?

  • well if Ballymena had a Sauron maybe… 😉

  • Daugavas

    Totally agree with above comments re:boundaries.
    Interesting to note that councils will have a max of 50 members which means that Belfast regardless of what happens will lose a ward. I suspect that this means that Woodvale and Botanic both get abolished with an extra seat in the Upper Falls. A gain for Sinn Fein although balanced out by the disappearance of the nationalist quota in Pottinger.

    As regards names I suspect that they will go for a mix of geographical features and / or historic county names. Many will possibly be a bit unwieldy if the prevailing trends in boundary commissions are anything to go by.

    Council 1 : Fairly clear. East Down or Strangford. Some will argue that that could cause confusion where council boundaries aren’t coterminous with parliamentary seats that share the same name but that has never stopped them in the case of North Down for example.

    Council 2 : Awkward name to match an awkward shape. They could go for South Antrim and cheerfully ignore the Co Down bits that are included or it could be “Lisburn and S.Antrim” or “S.Antrim and Lagan Valley” for example.

    C3: As with above either solely North Antrim or combined with “and Coleraine.” (Derry/Londonderry is likely to be avoided in council names to avoid upsetting people.)
    A long shot would be “Dalriada” after an ancient kingdom in those parts. North East Ulster would be descriptive enough. Variations involving “Bann” are also possibilities.

    C4: As above I think they’ll avoid ref to stroke county. North Ulster is one possibility but I quite like “Foyle & Sperrin.”

    C5: Fermanagh & South Tyrone looks the best bet although variations involving Erne and Mid Ulster also be possible.

    C6: Upper Bann? Failing that, Armagh and West Down. South East Ulster would also cover it well enough.

    C7: “Belfast minus” , “Inner Belfast,” “Historic Belfast” or “Belfast fudge”

  • Keith M

    So this is the thread where we’re playing the name game. My suggestions;
    1 : Down (why complicate things?)
    2 : Bannside
    3 : North East Ulster
    4 : Foyleside
    5 : Erneside
    6 : Armagh
    7 : Belfast City

    All suitably ambiguous and non-partisan.

  • finn69

    its a case of not seeing the wood for the trees lads, the two governments are in the driving seat so who cares whos in the passenger seat and whos in the back that only matter when you were kids going to mass on a sunday. the dup are the biggest party in ireland and they’ve achieved or gained nothing since the election. look beyond the elected heads and see how this will affect peoples lives and livihoods and then you’ll see the masterplan

  • Keith M

    “the dup are the biggest party in ireland”… it’s all those West Brits in Rathgar isn’t it?

  • slug

    Well I don’t like these names although some efforts have gone into the foregoing.

    It happened in other places – remember Avon, Salop, Humberside etc. These are names people didn’t respond to and I think it breaks the identification between the people and council.

    Anyhow: Carrickfergus in Bannside? Don’t make me cry.

  • Crateagus

    Slug

    Spot on Salop about sums it up

    Crateagus

  • Are the boundaries not bloody close to the county boundaries?

    Why not just use them?

    If it’s good enough for the GAA and the Orange Order (not to mention the courts)…

  • Daugavas

    Keith: “So this is the thread where we’re playing the name game. My suggestions;
    1 : Down (why complicate things?)
    2 : Bannside
    3 : North East Ulster
    4 : Foyleside
    5 : Erneside
    6 : Armagh”

    Keith as for your suggestions – generally I would go for in order of preference
    i) “Compass point” County
    ii) “Compass point” Ulster
    iii) combinations of above with Town names
    iv) Geographic features

    Down well it doesn’t include all the county and I always thought it was a little stupid and confusing to have such a situation. East Down would be perfect or else Strangford.

    Bannside – most of the river flows through council 3 and council 6, only a small bit around Toome actually touches the river so that would make no sense at all. Additionally the name has traditionally been used to refer to North Antrim electoral divisions. South Antrim and Lisburn or South Antrim and Lagan Valley would seem best.

    3 NE Ulster would be good enough.

    4 Foyleside hardly covers the Limavady Magherafelt bits so I’d go for Foyle & Sperrin. In this case geographic features are necessary to avoid the stroke county political argument.

    5 As above most of it is nowhere near Erne so Fermanagh & South Tyrone.

    6 Again substantial bit of the council is in Down. Armagh & West Down would be perfect and at least is a name that people can identify with.

  • Daugavas

    Slug: “Well I don’t like these names although some efforts have gone into the foregoing.
    It happened in other places – remember Avon, Salop, Humberside etc. These are names people didn’t respond to and I think it breaks the identification between the people and council. ”

    In those cases the problem was not the names but the fact that the council boundaries were unpopular. You could have called Humberside “East Riding and North Lincolnshire” and it would have been equally hated as the Humber really divided rather than united people on either side of the river. In this case inevitably there will be some disagreement when you have such large councils which cross traditional county boundaries so names are very much a secondary issue.

  • The names issue could fade quite quickly. A better analogy than Avon or Humber would be with Wales; people now seem quite attached to names like Torfaen or Blaenau Gwent which at least have some roots in the community, and have the advantage that they don’t place one small town within a borough above others.
    Whaty were never popular in Wales were the over large and not very connected county councils invented in 1974; Gwent for instance, which suffered from having an urban base, a large chunk of the Valleys coalfield area, and an enormous rural hinterland between the coalfield and the border.
    My guess is that attention needs to be focussed on how you make the new councils work; just as Gwent never worked because the community interests it tried to represent were too disparate (rather like Northumberland today) so I think that someone needs to sit down and check that you won’t have the same problems in the new councils in Northern Ireland.

  • slug

    Thanks guys. Good observations.

    I didn’t mean it was just down to getting the right name – its the lack of a coherent unit.

    But the lack of a good name often is beacuse of the lack of coherency of the unit!

    I am going off these 7 councils idea. NI communities are centered around a number of towns. Maybe we could start with lokoing at the main travel to work nodes and build round that. Rather than plucking some number like 7 out of the air.

  • Crataegus

    Slug

    “Maybe we could start with looking at the main travel to work nodes and build round that.”

    Exactly

    Or why bother at all as the councils only spend 4% of government expenditure and much of what they do, like bin collection, cannot be done away with. I would like someone to itemise exactly how the savings are going to be made set against the possible costs of reorganisation. Frankly I don’t believe what I am being told.

    Trimming down government is a separate issue and I would applaud any rationalisation and reduction of departments and quangos, but there is no reason why a number of councils cannot co-operate to provide a service. They already do this with Building Control services and the councils in say Co. Antrim could collectively maintain the Roads etc. Such a system would be a lot more rational than this proposal. Why disrupt something that actually works fairly efficiently? Why incur major disruption and costs if you really do not have to? It will cost a lot and save nothing, that’s my prediction.

    Also do you really want a full time professional councillor or the person of the people representing the people? The thoughts of career councillors made up of the quango types fills me with dread.

    Finally why should our council size be 250,000 – 300,000. Elsewhere in Europe and BRITAIN and IRELAND they are much smaller. What is the PFA’s agenda?

  • Scotsman

    Crataegus,

    Councils elsewhere are not much smaller- as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, regarding Scotland:

    1- Highland Council is bigger in area than the whole of Northern Ireland and has a population of 210,000

    2- My own Fife Council is 1300 sq km and has 350,000.

    There are numerous other examples in Scotland, which is generally the standard comparison used for the RPA.

    These are single-tier authorities with many more powers than NI councils have or will have.

    Unfortunately, the Tories (pre-devolution) gave Scotland too many local authorities, 32, when we probably should have had fewer than 20 for our 5 million people. Unfotunately, the Tories tried to create suburban fiefdoms of their own, but they failed as nobody voted for them even in their “heartlands.”

    The only complaints I can hear are from local politicians in NI worried about their powerbases. I think it will be healthy to see them widen their horizons a little from their tiny parishes.