Those new councils…

Nick Whyte’s been doing some back of an envelope calculations on the new council boundaries. As he points out, some of this pre-mature since the Boundary Commission has still to report on the final shapes. But as he points out there are some currently Nationalist councils who will have to get used to being in a relatively tiny minority again in the east.

  • godsdog

    So, far from promoting the Balkanisation of the north, as the scaremongers of the SDLP were predicting the new councils will actually have a greater mix in terms of political representation. No more single identity councils as would happen with the SDLP and UUP proposals.
    Now all we have to do is ensure the councils are bound by equality legislation that will ensure the rights of all are protected and that the practices of areas like Castlereagh and Lisburn are no longer tolerated.

  • Rubicon

    All the potential boundary changes Nick points to seem sensible – particularly the extension of the Belfast boundary which is well short of the real urban area. Let’s hope the Boundary Commission agrees with him.

  • dantheman

    WOuld like to see some changes in south down, as far as downpatrick/lecale or crossgar. I wouldnt fancy peter robinson and co running affairs in my town

  • DK

    It has always seemed bonkers to me that SW Belfast and SE Belfast are for no apparent reason assigned to Lisburn and Castlereagh respectively when the former is clearly defined and the latter is a made-up suburb of Belfast. Both should be included in Belfast. Don’t know about Glengormley – it is definitely part of Newtownabbey.

  • JD

    Plan B is looking good to me.

  • ncm

    Yeah, parts of Lenadoon have a Lisburn postcode. Doesn’t make sense…

  • “Don’t know about Glengormley – it is definitely part of Newtownabbey.”

    The boundary between Newtownabbey and Belfast on the Shore Road is non-existant. There could definitely be an argument for incorporating Bawnmore and Rathcoole in Belfast – and in fact while I’m not sure if it’s still the case or not, I know both were part of North Belfast for the Westminster elections in the 1990s.

    In short, I totally agree Belfast City Council’s area needs to be made bigger to accurately reflect the size of the city.

  • DK

    “The boundary between Newtownabbey and Belfast on the Shore Road is non-existant.”

    I thought the naturaly border is the bit between Castleview and Bellevue, where the gold course and the zoo are:

  • Niall Gormley

    I did up a proposal for an 11 council model which can be seen at this address:

    A bit worthless now that the 7 council model seems set in stone, I still think it would have been better.

  • Crataegus

    This is a proposal that is to be the basis of future local government and the planning and delivery of local services. More important than having councils that are of roughly equal size is having councils that are homogeneous and have clear identities. I don’t believe that enough consideration has been given to the government’s proposals and it will make planning for the development of greater Belfast unnecessarily fragmented.

    Some of the groupings are bizarre and one does feel that it is simply gerrymandering. Unfortunately we are going to have to live with the resulting mess and pay for it with our rates.

    Hopefully this lot will be out of government before this is introduced.

  • elfinto

    I always thought that the M2 motorway was the boundary between Belfast and Newtownabbey.

  • Crataegus


    Better question is where are the links more close; Newtownabbey and Belfast or Newtownabbey and Lisburn and Antrim!!!

  • Keith

    “Better question is where are the links more close; Newtownabbey and Belfast or Newtownabbey and Lisburn and Antrim!!!”

    Well Glengormley would probably be better served by a council that served other outer city satellite towns, instead of a general city council.

  • Crataegus


    Newtownabbey has some interesting policies regarding cycle ways and footpaths and it will be interesting to see how they connect up with those of Lisburn or Antrim. How do you develop some cohesive identity or come up with a transport policy. Don’t forget more powers will be devolved to the councils.

    Cutting Belfast of from its suburbs is something which I think needs more careful consideration.

    As for Glengormley etc. people in North Belfast use the leisure facilities of Newtownabbey and those in Newtownabbey go to the Zoo and up the Cavehill etc. The y shop at the Abbey Centre but they don’t go to Lisburn for a swim or to shop.

    The proposals do not allow for existing social networks or plain ordinary geography.

  • Glen Taisie

    Moyle into 7 doesn’t go.

    Keep LOCAL democracy Local!!!

  • dodrade

    The revised Westminster boundaries would probably be the best thing to do, but the temptation will be, with Nationalist and Unionists guaranteed three councils each, to keep Belfast as finely balanced as possible, and Alliance as kingmakers.

  • Chris Donnelly

    But as he points out there are some currently Nationalist councils who will have to get used to being in a relatively tiny minority again in the east.


    Certainly this will apply for Moyle council and probably Downpatrick as well.

    Similarly, the unionist-controlled councils of Craigavon (including Portadown) and Banbridge will find themselves in a nationalist majority council.

  • Sorry to be a bit slow on picking this up – my usual alerts system obviously missed Slugger!

    Moyle’s population is so tiny (looks much bigger on the map, but those are the Glens) that it is not going to supset anyone’s plans.

    Downpatrick may be a different matter. I suspect we will see an argument being made for a wholesale swap of Down and Banbridge districts. Difficult to justify though on any terms except sectarian tidiness.

  • Valenciano

    Moyle was always going to be the first to go in any reorganisation. In fact even under the old system its existence was tenuous at best eg in 1990 the local government boundary commission suggested merging it with Ballymoney.

    The Southern part of Newtownabbey clearly belongs in Belfast as most of its growth in the past 3 decades has been as a result of people moving out of North Belfast. Add in the shopping links, school links (Hightown School etc) the industrial estates in Mallusk providing work for North Belfast and it’s hard to see why instead they’re linking it with Lisburn over 20 miles away and a drive through Belfast!

    Niall Gormley’s 11 council model above makes perfect sense but we seem to be stuck with the 7 council model now. Belfast does need to be extended but sadly the overriding concern seems to be avoiding upsetting the sectarian applecart rather than having logical boundaries. So ultimately I suspect that they’ll add Poleglass and Twinbrook but counterbalance them with a similar sized protestant part of either Newtownabbey (Rathcoole) or Castlereagh (Cregagh).

  • crataegus


    the overriding concern seems to be avoiding upsetting the sectarian applecart rather than having logical boundaries.

    I fear you are right, an odd way to plan to deliver local services, but I suppose since we have institutionalised sectarianism in the Assembly why not start the reorganisation of councils with a sectarian carve up.

    Utter insanity. This is going to lead to inefficiencies, lack of clear identity etc. I think we may end up revisiting this in the not so distant future.

  • KOD

    nialls 11 councils seem to make a lot of sense and would keep decisions far more local than seven councils

  • Crow

    While the Newcastle DEA is contiguous with both the Newry & Mourne and Banbridge councils, Downpatrick DEA is not. Ballynahinch DEA, which is much more evenly split from a demographic perspective, gets in the way. So it will be interesting to see where it ends up, if a sectarian carve up is really the goal.
    In regard to the wholesale swapping of Down District Council, Jude Collins recently suggested that very thing in his Daily Ireland column.

  • Crow,

    You know perfectly well that the building blocks of the new councils will be wards, not DEA’s – and indeed, the wards used will be newly drawn. So the present contours of the Ballynahinch DEA have little relevance.

    More important probably is that Downpatrick is just that bit closer to Newtownards (or wherever the centre of gravity of the new South East council is deemed to be) and just that bit further from Newry by car than Newcastle.

    A decent case can be made fot the inclusion of Newcastle in the South can be justified on geographical grounds. A case for Downpatrick on other than sectarian grounds is more difficult to make out.

  • IJP


    Out of interest, the boundaries of the western councils are very close to the county boundaries, but with one district lifted out (Strabane removed from Tyrone, Coleraine removed from Londonderry etc).

    Would it not be far easier to draw the boundary along existing County lines – with perhaps a single Tyrone/Fermanagh Council?

    If the talk is of ‘coterminosity’, this would mean boundaries ‘coterminous’ with legal boundaries and cultural organizations (e.g. GAA, Orange).

    Is the only reason for drawing the boundaries where they are to get populations even, or is there another reason?

  • dantheman

    Would like to see county councils as before, with maybe a seperate N & S Down and Antrim councils as in tipperary. Dont fancy Robinson and co getting their hands on Downpatrick.

    Where the proposed 7 council arrangement to apply, Downpatrick is the county town of Down and in the new setup it should be the base of power for its council area.

  • Vivaldian

    Speaking as an Ards man, I’m praying they keep Downpatrick in the ‘North Down’ council – it may be the only way to stop the DUP getting an overall majority.

  • abucs

    Aye Vivaldian.

    i always thought the inclusion of Downpatrick was political. i.e. it was in order to ensure the survival of the UUP. Especially as a party of government – somewhere.

    A similar, although weaker case can be made for Coleraine’s inclusion in north Antrim.

  • Stephen Copeland

    With all due respect to county allegiance and tradition, I think that the organisation of local government should be done entirely on the grounds of efficiency. Artificial county boundaries dating back 400 years are a ridiculous way to organise local services in the 21st century. Likewise the idea that the councils should be roughly equal sized is daft. Why should they be? If Belfast is bigger than Derry, well then so should its council population.

    The first task is to identify the functions of the councils, and then figure out the best way to organise them – the optimal geographic and demographic size, the best matches of towns, the best synergy that could be found with other neighbouring areas (including those on the other side of the border), and so on. If councils have wide-ranging strategic powers, then their sizes should be commensurate. If they are just emptying the bins, then 7,11, 26 or 101 are all equally ‘sensible’. It may well be that a realistic assessment of the functions of local authorities comes to a simple solution – there is little need for them. A functioning Assembly might be all little Northern Ireland needs. It has often been pointed out that larger areas (geo- and demo-) have only one unitary authority, so that may turn out to be the case here too> Or maybe just 2 councils – ‘Belfast Metropolitan’ and ‘all the rest’. However I don’t think that the necessary analysis of the needs and funtions of these ‘super-councils’ has really been carried out – I think that the powers-that-be have simply agreed to 7 councils out of a mixture of inertia, expectation, and wish to provide a honey-pot for the local politicians.

  • crataegus


    However I don’t think that the necessary analysis of the needs and functions of these ‘super-councils’ has really been carried out.

    Totally agree, I have long been of the opinion that you need a Belfast Metropolitan Area Council and rational boundaries for the remainder based on catchment areas, social cohesion and geography. How else do you plan efficient services, but really it all depends on exactly what powers are to be devolved? With the limited size of NI one has to ask what will be done at the Assembly and what at council level? If little is being devolved down why are we bothering? However if the super councils have considerable power what point the Assembly? Are we over governed?

    Council size is irrelevant as is the ethnic mix. It should be solely about the delivery of services and all the head counting in utterly depressing (as are the current proposals which are insane). I have long been dismayed by the ethnic nature of many of the ward and district boundaries and I would have thought that this would be a good opportunity to organise on a rational basis.

    My view of the 7 council model is that the people agreeing and formulating simply don’t know this place and frankly don’t care. They are playing a silly game with something that should be fundamentally practical.

  • IJP


    Basically that’s true, although I wouldn’t underestimate people’s affiliation to traditional county boundaries.

    My point is that the Government’s boundaries are very close to the county boundaries – so, given that the courts and cultural organizations still use those boundaries, why not just use the county boundaries?

    The argument that this means populations would be uneven is irrelevant for the reasons you outline.

    Besides, using county boundaries makes the addition of the 6 to the 26 easier still, don’t you think…? 🙂


    Good post – all that is entirely right.