Inner East, East, South, West, North West, North East and.. Belfast

[image from the BBC report] Most of the focus on today’s announcement of the boundaries for the seven new council areas emerging from the Review of Public Administration is on the distinctly pedestrian [or Soviet? – Ed] names they have currently been given by the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner. It’s up for consultation, natch.. but if the Assembly returns, and with only Sinn Féin supporting the seven council model, it could all be academic..The names of the seven new councils:

Belfast Local Government District, incorporating the current Belfast City Council, parts of Lisburn, North Down and Castlereagh;

Inner East Local Government District, incorporating Antrim, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey Councils and the remainder of Lisburn City Council;

East Local Government District, comprising Ards, Down, parts of North Down and Castlereagh Councils;

South Local Government District, made up of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon and Newry and Mourne;

West Local Government District, incorporating Cookstown, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Fermanagh and Omagh;

North West Local Government District, comprising Derry, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane and part of Coleraine;

North East Local Government District, made up of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Larne, Moyle and a major part of Coleraine.

  • Alan

    The Belfast proposals make sense and should remain the same in any future discussion.

    I could not believe Tommy Gallagher this morning aruing that Fermanagh should stay because they had retained their Townland names!

  • slug

    I would have preferred the following county-based names:

    Belfast
    South Antrim
    East Down
    Armagh and West Down
    Fermanagh and South Tyrone
    Foyleside
    North Antrim and Coleraine

  • fair_deal

    1. The exclusion of Bawnmore and Rathcoole from Belfast is stupid.
    2. The number of councils will grow (slightly) if devolution returns so it is unlikely these will be the final boundaries.

  • dodrade

    Given these proposed Belfast boundaries, would Alliance continue to hold the balance of power?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The names are crap, but they’ve asked for the public to recommend better ones. Any more suggestions? One bloke on Talkback suggested using river names, for example.

  • Animus

    Inner East? What ridiculous names. I agree the names should be changed, but not to anything as sensible as Slug. I would like to see some fanciful, or at least interesting names instead.

    At least part of Castlereagh will be considered Belfast, living right on the line I find it rather foolish that the area around Forestside is not considered Belfast.

  • Yokel

    Fenianhole 1,2,3 and Hunhole 1,2,3….?

    I mean come on thats what many people will think anyway… easy name recognition.

  • Johnkingii

    After a quick look and a very rough estimate of the new Belfast Wards with one councillor per ward. I came out at 28 Unionist 22 Nationalist and 10 to close to call. Splitting the to close to call 50/50 does give a unionist majority but Alliance may gain seats at either blocs expense in South and East Belfast and parts of North. A quick look at inner East is giving 54 Unionist 6 Nationalist with again a few losses from the blocs to Alliance.

  • Crataegus

    Sit back and watch the cost of re-organisation spiral. Assuming an Assembly Super Councils to do what exactly?

  • joeCanuck

    If, after Friday, people are still content to be ruled by bureauocrats, well then we are going to end up with unimaginative drivel.

  • I took my own humble stab at creating names to suit everyone on my own blog, Mr Gonzo.

  • dantheman

    Nonsense,

    Yokel’s naming strategy looks to be the best so far!

  • joeCanuck

    We had a big local government reorganization (amalgamation) here in Ontario a few years back.
    Here’s how the naming of the new districts generally took place. People were asked to send suggestions to the councils. Temporary names were given for the purpose of the fist election. Then, along with the election ballot, there was a separate ballot with the top 5 name suggestions and electors got to pick the name. It worked well.

  • darth rumsfeld

    and so another attempt at gerrymandering our wee six raises its ugly head. What was to prevent Coleraine coming in to County Londonderry, with which it has numerous economic tourist and cultural ties, instead of the unloved and unlovely Strabane, which is alien to Limavady, and Magherafelt, not to mention most of the eponymous city. it’s almost as if they didn’t want too many Prods in that council in case it..er, didn’t become a sectarian carve up.

    Meanwhile Ballymena waves goodbye to Antrim which joins the ludicrous croissant council that had to be created because there just couldn’t be an overwhelmingly Prod Antrim council, and a strongly Prod Down County Council led from Lisburn. And how hard they tried to make sure the sensible extension of Belfast north, east and west didn’t happen in case the evil prods got too far ahead of the MOPErs so as not to let Alliance still hold the balance of power. So most of Newtownabbey staggers dazed and confused into the arms of Lisburn and Carrick. Loathe though I am to give anything to Fermanagh, what was so wrong with the old County Council boundaries? Oh yeah- 4-2 and 1-1 on the County boroughs. Stupid to have asked.

  • nmc

    They could introduce a bit of humour to the thing, like North East Local Government District could be North East Local Government District Hi, Belfast Local Government District could be Balfast Local Gavernment District etc.

  • Dalek

    Belfast Local Government District- Belfast City Council

    Inner East Local Government District- South Antrim District Council

    East Local Government District- East & North Down Regional Council

    South Local Government District- Southern & Central Regional Council

    West Local Government District -Greater Western Regional Council

    North West Local Government District- North Western Regional Council

    North East Local Government District- North Eastern Regional Council

    Now that wasn’t too difficult was it?

    Just my suggestions.

  • dalek

    Should read:

    Inner East Local Government District- South Antrim Regional Council

  • BoxtyChamp

    Inner East = Dopey, North East = Doc, East = Bashful, West = Sleepy, North East = Sneezy, South = Happy and North East = Grumpy.

  • nmc

    Belfast = smickers

  • Crataegus

    darth rumsfeld

    I agree with your assessment this proposal is insane and has sod all to do with geography, natural hinterlands or anything rational. It is blatant gerrymandering. They should have started with the catchment areas for the major towns and to hell with the political affiliations of the population. Councils are about delivering services not ensuring a perverted status quo.

  • dalek

    Cratageus

    Theres something in what you say in that we have the insane croissant and Newry connected to Craigavon (note the consultation meeting will be in Armagh..Is that a signal?)

    The only problem with your solution is that it would require more than 7 council as there are more than 7 similarly sized majorish towns to act as hubs for the new authorities.

  • idunnomeself

    I think its a pretty good, fairly sensible job and as near to right as they were likely to get

    I agree that Belfast should be enlarged, and if anything it should be enlarged more- Four WInds is in Belfast!

    Darth, htere is as much to pick over in what you say as you have picked over in what is proposed, Lisburn, for example, is in County Antrim, not Down, and has more natural links up to Templepatrick and Antrim than to Newtownards/ Comber the other way

    F_D and PB, do you really think the assembly will undo this? they’ll have been working on implementation for a year, they’ll have to start another review.. In any case the other parties aren’t agree on what they do want, and as you point out one of the leading parties (SF) is all for this- as is any sensible person without a vested political interest!

  • Greenflag

    Bannistan City

    Bannistan Inner

    East Bannistan

    Bannistan South Central

    West Bannistan

    Bannistan North West

    Bannistan North East

    Approved by the Ayatollah of Ballymena 🙁

  • smcgiff

    They picked bland names and blander colours. Why is that I wonder?

  • Comrade Stalin

    is on the distinctly pedestrian [or Soviet? – Ed] names

    My return to power is at last beginning to take shape. It is a triumph for Marxist efficiency and democratic values. Now councillors from Lisburn will get to vote on planning permission in Carrick; Belfast councillors can’t vote on anything that goes on in Poleglass even though the red bus goes there now. Fantastic!

  • paddyreilly

    Hm. Three points:-

    1) The reason for the boring names is that these areas cannot now be confused with the pre-existing six counties and twenty six local government areas;

    2) There has to be some check on the expansion of Belfast or it will contain the whole province or such a large proportion of its population that the division will be top-heavy;

    3) The allegation of gerrymandering is a bit thick. Northern Ireland is already a gerrymander, any movement in the opposite direction will only serve to diminish the amount of gerrymandering. The aim seems to be to produce three Nationalist areas, three Unionist, and one no-overall-control. Fair enough, I would say.

  • Wile E. Coyote

    Ach, it’ll look grand in all the poncey guidebooks.

  • Crataegus

    dalek

    Why 7? Why the same size?

    Lets face it Castlereagh and Newtownabbey are suburbs of Belfast and not Downpatrick or Lisburn. Indeed so is much of North Down.

    Lisburn has more in common with Banbridge, Lurgan and Portadown than it has with Antrim.

    The main towns left are Downpatrick, Newry, Enniskillen, Omagh, (London)Derry, Coleraine and Ballymena. (Coleraine is a difficult one)

    That would make about 8 or 9 councils including a large Belfast. Anyway we have been through this over and over. I believe the proposals to be utterly stupid when viewed from the point of view of homogeneous identities, service delivery and coherent planning policies.

    This proposal is only valid if viewed from the perspective of gerrymandering to produce a predictable result. It will result in many effectively disenfranchised. I though we were supposed to leave this sort of activity behind us not have it promoted by government ministers.

  • Smithsonian

    Crataegus
    Agreed the only purpose is a sectarian carve up and I don’t think it will work in the long term.

    It is just like rates and water taxes so bad you just have to get into the Assembly and change it.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    “is on the distinctly pedestrian [or Soviet? – Ed]”

    I presume the Soviet jab is a joke.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    I think the names should stay the way they are, with the option of the Councils choosing their own names afterwards.

    I think the aim should be in future though to have the counils going on county basis i.e 6 County Councils, with perhaps 2 City Councils- one for Belfast and one, perhaps, for Derry.

  • Iñaki O’Kelly

    Maybe Nicholas Whyte could have a look at these latest proposals and give us his insight into the polital consequences, in particular, for the new enlarged Belfast District.

  • DK

    I agree with Crataegus – the councils should be based on logical catchment and service areas & to hell with the fenians/huns. The banana council (as I predict that “inner east” will become known) is ludicrous and designed purely to keep the numbers of councils down. It should be abolished and subsumed into the other six. I think that councils based on Enniskillen, Omagh, Derry, Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast and Bangor should do the job. Belfast should include Newtownabbey and Lisburn since although these are very large towns (only Derry is bigger and, maybe Bangor), they are effectively commuter towns, especially Newtownabbey, whose city centre is a sheep grazing hill.

  • Animus

    The assembly wouldn’t make one jot of difference, if anything, they would further complicate matters.

    People are already disenfranchised from Council business, I can’t see how the new system will be considerably worse. I do think an opportunity to improve has been missed though. Considering that transport will be area for Councils to develop, Belfast should include the entire Metro area (including Poleglass and Four Winds).

    In terms of coherent planning, this would favour perhaps five councils if tied in with health services, so any number is likely to be problematic to someone.

    As for the sectarian carve up, I agree, but that’s what the voters of Northern Ireland seem to like. It’s not the boundaries commissioner’s fault that NI is a sectarian little hole, now is it? It’s them’ums at it again.

  • Smithsonian

    Animus
    As for the sectarian carve up, I agree, but that’s what the voters of Northern Ireland seem to like.

    I don’t think it what the voters like, it is what the politicians like. Good strong safe seats where they can’t be deposed. Maybe thats a good thing because they can then afford to take tough decisions (e.g. where to place the local dump)

  • mnob

    Its all right !! Calm down everyone.

    This isn’t going to happen. Post St Andrews 11 is the magic number. Seems nobody’s told the government machinery yet.

  • Jen Erik

    Stupid question, but I was wondering how the Coleraine split works? For instance, taking saomething like the proposal to build a museum in town – if you were for that, or against it – would you lobby both councils – or just the North East council [because it’s to be built on that side of the river]? Would both councils have to agree on big projects? Or would such projects impact on only one set of rates?
    And if the councils did get back control of planning, how do you get a coherent policy for the way the town is developed?

  • Iñaki O’Kelly

    Does anyone know exactly which wards are being transferred to the new Belfast district from Castlereagh, Lisburn and North Down districts?

  • Animus

    Smithsonian – who puts the politicians into office? Why is a safe seat ‘safe’? Because politicians can count on voters to keep them where they are by voting along sectarian lines. Politicians don’t go around hypnotising voters to elect them, if voters wanted change, they would vote for it.

  • Smithsonian

    Animus
    Most people don’t know who their local politicians are. The majority of councillors are elected on party ticket rather than on any individual merit.

    The safer the seat the longer the party tail. Longer serving members are higher up the pecking order so in the event of any electoral reversal they are unlikely to lose their seats. AKA the proposed RPA will make it impossible to remove members.

    A negative cosequence of this is the lack of independent thought in the councils, block voting makes council meetings (and council committee meetings) more or less redundant.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Maybe thats a good thing because they can then afford to take tough decisions (e.g. where to place the local dump)

    Smithsonian, not really. There will always be intra-tribe competition for votes, especially over questions such as rubbish dumps.

  • Labourman

    Roll on Labour Party organisation!

  • Animus

    Smithsonian, I couldn’t agree more with you. However, the electorate must take some responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. If people are so disinterested that they can’t be bothered to find out who their local councillors are, they get the government they deserve. However, the rest of us suffer in turn.

  • Valenciano

    Slug – great minds 🙂 those were exactly the names that I suggested on here last year, although I had “Foyle and Sperrin” rather than Foyleside as that seems a bit dubious for Magherafelt.

    Darth: “Meanwhile Ballymena waves goodbye to Antrim which joins the ludicrous croissant council that had to be created because there just couldn’t be an overwhelmingly Prod Antrim council, and a strongly Prod Down County Council led from Lisburn.”

    Not with you. Lisburn and Antrim will be part of overwhelmingly protestant councils. Splitting it on the basis of counties and county boroughs would probably result in a 4-2 split of counties in favour of Nationalists while Belfast would only be Unionist if they extended it far enough.

    Personally I’d like to see Belfast annex Newtownabbey (except for the Ballyclare bits) Castlereagh (except the more rural Moneyreagh bit) and Poleglass/Twinbrook. Holywood is a more marginal case.

    Obviously the 7 council set up is a load of nonsense particularly the “Greater Belfast Banana” but I can also confidently predict that 99% of the public that complain about this will not do anything other than sound off about it. When I went to the Boundary Commission enquiries last year it was jam packed full of professional politicians and party hacks purely because the ordinary public seemingly couldn’t get off their arses to make their views known.

    Btw I’d also be interested to know exactly which wards are joining Belfast.

  • kensei

    AM all for anything that keep the amount of councils and therefore politicians down.

    Not entirely sure what the problem with the banana is – it doesn’t really matter what direction you head of of Belfast, surely you just get a load of commuter towns?

  • Crataegus

    Kensei

    Not entirely sure what the problem with the banana is.

    The Belfast Hills split it in two and there is very little, or possibly no, real connection between the likes of Newtownabbey and Lisburn (separated by Belfast!!). So given that Planning issues are to be devolved how do you come up with a coherent strategy for an area that is not in itself coherent? You actually need a big Belfast purely for practical reasons.

    Antrim, Lisburn and Newtownabbey all have new council offices, what a waste of money.

    Valenciano

    Personally I’d like to see Belfast annex Newtownabbey (except for the Ballyclare bits) Castlereagh (except the more rural Moneyreagh bit) and Poleglass/Twinbrook.

    A fair assessment in my opinion.

  • Valenciano

    re:Belfast. I just had a look on the local government boundary commissioner website and it’s not good news for Unionists. There’s a bit of confusing and unnecessary renaming of wards going on i.e. Castleview becomes Innisfayle, Musgrave becomes Balmoral and confusingly Waterworks to Cliftonville and Cliftonville to Oldpark being just some examples.

    The bare bones though is that the Shankill and inner South Belfast each lose a ward. Nationalist West Belfast gains five by extending into Poleglass/Twinbrook/Lagmore. Three new wards are created by extending into the current Castlereagh Central DEA. Finally the other new wards created are Belvoir, Gilnahirk (including Tullycarnet) and Garnerville (the bits between the current Belfast boundary and Holywood.

    Roughly I’d expect that to go as follows:-

    Castle: a slight boost for Nationalists due to the addition of the lower Cavehill Road but probably no change.

    Court/Oldpark: One ward lost, New Lodge ward probably moved into Court resulting in a Unionist (probably Hugh Smyth) losing their seat.

    Nationalist West Belfast: a new DEA probably electing 4 Sinn Fein and 1 SDLP.

    Balmoral: loses a ward due to removal of half of Windsor. Would have a slight Nationalist majority for the first time ever. 2 Unionist councillors, 2 Nationalist with the last seat a toss up between Alliance and a third Nationalist. Probably a Unionist loss.

    Laganbank: gains Belvoir ward and half of Windsor. Unionist gain.

    (New) Castlereagh Road: 4 Unionist and 1 Alliance

    Pottinger: as now but possible Sinn Fein gain from Alliance and DUP from Davy Ervine.

    Upper Newtownards Rd: at least 3 DUP with possibly 4 UUP/Alliance (1 of these very vulnable to DUP.)

    Roughly overall 5 Nationalist gains, 3 Unionists and 1 Alliance giving 28 Unionists, 27 Nationalists and 5 Alliance.

  • Crow

    Valenciano,

    Are the DEAs defined or are you speculating?

  • Valenciano

    Crow – total speculation although given the restriction on DEAs electing between 5 to 7 councillors there’s little else they can do in certain areas as they don’t have a lot of leeway.

    In North and West Belfast they’re highly unlikely to cross the Shankill Falls peaceline and similarly the motorway is an obvious boundary between South and West Belfast. This means they have 15 wards in the Greater Falls/Poleglass which can only be split into three 5 member DEAs.

    Greater Shankill logically goes together but has only four wards so either New Lodge or Legoniel has to go in. New Lodge is more of a self contained community whereas Ligoniel has overspill bits of Ballysillan and it makes more sense to keep the latter two together. Other 11 in North Belfast most likely split as described above ie largely the status quo.

    South Belfast – they have a cross river Ormeau ward so must have a DEA crossing the river. Makes sense to have a Laganbank as now and Belvoir can’t really go anywhere else.

    You’re then left with 18 in East Belfast which must be split into three DEAs. Having DEAs as now but with a new one for the added Cregagh bits seems a logical enough continuation of current arrangements. Ultimately the move of a ward or two in any part of Belfast wouldn’t really make a great deal of diffence to the above guesstimates.

  • abucs

    Thanks for the assessment Valenciano.

    Would you agree that the unionists were a little over-represented in the last local Belfast election seeing as the Nationalist /Unionists votes were about even ? So that the re-organisation you suggest is simply just evening out this over-representation while carefully expanding the boundaries to keep the 50/50 voting balance ?

  • Valenciano

    Abucs, Nationalists actually had a fair head start last time 48.4% compared to 43.5% for Unionists. However, I don’t agree with you as it happens. You’re quite right that current electoral arrangements in Belfast are slightly skewed in favour of Unionists as a strict proportional allocation on the basis of those first preferences would result in a 25/22 split in favour of Nationalists. This is due to several factors but mainly the overrepresentation of the Shankill at the expense of Upper Falls and greater transfer cohesion among the Unionist bloc than the Nationalist. (Bluntly UUP supporters are much more likely to transfer to DUP than SDLP supporters will to Sinn Fein.)

    Ultimately the proposed Belfast boundaries simply don’t make sense on the ground though. It’s utterly absurd to have Rathcoole and Bawnmore linked to Lisburn and Antrim rather than Belfast. The only justification for doing so is having a predestined hung council for Belfast – something that can change in the long run anyway.

    The ultimate aim seems to have been to have a 50/50 split of councils across NI and to hell with having sensible boundaries. However gerrymandering to produce 2 one party states is only slightly worse than gerrymandering to produce a one party state. A better way would have been to have compulsory power sharing at council level. After all if they can have that for Stormont, then why not for the council that covers Stormont? Councils should reflect where people live,work and spend their free time and the proposed arrangements are a long way short of that.

  • abucs

    Fair point Valenciano. Thanks.