There may be some tinkering at the edges

Last word goes to Chris Thornton, who notes:

A Local Government Boundary Commissioner is expected to be appointed to look at the questions in detail. The commissioner will have to consider how the 582 wards in Northern Ireland should fit in the new council jigsaw. Local government boundaries are normally reviewed every 10 to 15 years, but the changes proposed today are the most sweeping for a generation. Public hearings on the changes are expected, but the commissioner will have to reach a decision before 2009, when the next council elections are due.

The make-up of most of the new councils will be obvious, but when it comes to determining the edges, the commissioner will have to wrestle with a host of considerations, including social connections, geography and population. But orange and green politics will also enter the equation. Since there are expectations that there will be three rural councils with a nationalist majority and three rural councils with a unionist majority, particular attention will be paid to the shape of the new Greater Belfast council. Nationalists could see Twinbrook and Poleglass brought into the new council as extensions of West Belfast, while unionists may want to see sections of what is now Castlereagh council brought into Belfast.

  • fair_deal

    The argument about number of councils is one issue but the boundaries of the proposals needs serious attention. The ‘Belfast banana’ doesn’t make sense at all nor does no expansion to Belfast. The claim that is a simple Unionist ploy to get a majority doesn’t hold so much water any more when you consider the demographic changes in immediate suburbs of Belfast e.g. Carryduff Glengormley and the likely inclusion of Twinbrook and Poleglass.

    Councils of near equal size could be made by ‘amalgamating’ westminster constituencies for local government purposes. This could help reduce confusion on boundaries and mean westminster and local government reviews could coccur simultaneously saving time and cost.

  • slug

    I think it should be done around actual communities of interest. The most obvious way to me is to look at the travel to work nodes.

    There is a list of the main travel to work areas that NISRA have. But since their website is in an unuseable format at the moment (at least on my browser) I will guess they are something like the following (moving anti-clockwise):

    Belfast
    Ballymena
    Coleraine
    Derry/Londonderry
    Omagh
    Eniskillen
    Craigavon
    Newry
    Downpatrick
    Bangor
    Lisburn.

    The councils should be based on these towns or pairs of them. For example here is a 9 council model that makes a bit of sense to me:

    Belfast [expanded slightly N, W and E]
    Ballymena [including Antrim Carrick and Larne]
    Coleraine [including Limavady Bmoney and Bcastle]
    Derry/Londonderry [incl Strabane]
    Omagh [incl Cookstown, Magerafelt, Dungannon]
    Eniskillen [incl Fermanagh + perh bit of S Tyrone]
    Newry [incl Downpatrick and Newcastle]
    Bangor [incl Newtownards]
    Lisburn [incl Craigavon and Banbridge].

    Now I did that *before* asking what % are nationalist controlled. In fact it looks like 4 of the 9 would probably be mainly nationalist and 4 of the 9 would be mainly unionist with Belfast being balanced.

    Is this still a sectarian carve up? I don’t think so because my starting point was lets look at the main nodal towns and their natural hinterlands based on geography and economy and the transport networks. What do others think?

  • Cahal

    I think you should stop wasting your time thinking up 9 council models when the decision has already been made – 7.

    Also, having lived in Limavady for a while I fail to understand why you keep lumping them in with Coleraine. On another thread you said Limavady ‘looked toward’ Coleraine. Perhaps you are talking about those of a unionist persuasion residing in the Limavady area?

    Most nationalists (the ones I know anyway)in the Limavady area are a lot more familiar with Derry. The only reason they go to Coleraine is to get their car taxed.