Battle a Day Case Study No.2: The Number of Local Councils

One of the most fiercely contested aspects of the Review of Public Administration (RPA) for the political parties has been the recommendation that the 26 local government councils merge to form 7 Super councils.

Sinn Fein stood alone amongst the political parties in endorsing this recommendation- though not alone in society, as the Business community and, if media vox pops were anything to go by, the wider public- also seemed to endorse this rationalisation of the local government bureaucracy.
The problem facing the new Minister responsible for this area will be the same facing any of the other Ministers: namely, that any proposed changes to the recommendations will require the support of Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The boundary commissioner has completed his review of the electoral wards and has produced recommendations for the final composition of the seven councils. The next stage will involve the drawing up of the new local government constituencies (DEAs) for each of the seven councils.

Moves to halt the work to date will undoubtedly put back the timetable for implementation of the Review and amount to an expensive gamble, given Sinn Fein’s support for the 7 Council model could mean that such a course of action would be a worthless- though costly- exercise.

Like the 11 Plus, there is a time issue at play here: there has been suggestions of a 2008 election to the new Councils, with the new councillors operating in a ‘shadowing’ capacity for a period of months before coming into office proper in April 2009. In any case, given the four year term of office for local councillors, an election would have to take place in Spring/ Summer 2009.

Like so many other issues facing the new Executive, this one will not be resolved until a consensus is reached between Sinn Fein and the DUP about the nature of the new local government framework.

Another case where the threat/ promise of the mutual veto will shortly be compelling the two parties to sharpen their horse-trading skills.

  • Jonathan McCullough

    Chris,
    I know that you post here as a blatantly partisan SFer but could you please give us something to support the statement “if media vox pops were anything to go by, the wider public- also seemed to endorse this rationalisation of the local government bureaucracy.”

  • Chris Donnelly

    “blatantly partisan SFer”

    errr….you mean member of Sinn Fein, Johnny? Card-carrying and all!

    “if media vox pops were anything to go by, the wider public- also seemed to endorse this rationalisation of the local government bureaucracy.”

    Happy to do so, John.

    At the time of the announcement of the proposed council shake-up, the various media outlets asked members of the public what they thought about the proposal, and I was particularly struck by the support/ lack of hostility to the proposal by ‘ordinary punters-‘ie the type of person the BBC stops in the street and asks to share their opinions.

    It’s certainly not scientific, hence the “if media vox pops were anything to go by….”

    Now, John. Do you have any opinions on the actual issue, or how it may be resolved in the time ahead?

  • BonarLaw

    Chris

    links to “the various media outlets” and the relevant vox pops please.

  • Bemused

    Jonathan McCullogugh and BonarLaw – I’m no defender of Chris and find most of his posts pretty tiresome, but he’s right on this occasion. I remember at the time hearing various vox pops on BBC Ulster and others. The overwhelming reaction from the public was along the lines of “We have too much red tape, too many bureaucrats, too much wastage in the Civil service structure etc. and we need urgent rationalisation now”. Hardly surprisining in the circumstances – everyone knows that the whole civil/local governance structure of the North is a basket case.

  • Glen Taisie

    Chris

    Charity bet says Sinn Fein will backtrack and accept a model of 11.

    They compromise on everything else.

  • slug

    Theres a lot more to negotiate over than just the number of the councils. There are issues such as what they get to do (as opposed to what the assembly does) and how they operate, and how the councillors are paid, how many councillors there are, the names of the councils, etc. Personally I can’t see any of this being too difficult.

  • noel adams

    One issue that needs to be looked at is double and trebel jobing in Scotland and Wales this is already banned. If the new councils are going to end up almost full time positions its time for change

  • slug

    Yes, I agree Noel. The practice of an MP also being an MLA should be stopped, same goes for MLA and Councillor.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Slug

    Or in the case of some, an MP being an MLA AND a councillor!

  • slug

    Indeed Chris!

    Aside from the question of conflicts of interest and of fairness it would surely make politics a little more fluid, with more entry points for new politicians, if we removed these double or triple jobbing possibilities.

    I suppose there is also a question in my mind over whether the jobs on councils should be full time. I quite liked the idea of people combining being a councillor with their main job, outside of politics. This is especially true if we think that the Assembly will retain many powers now that we look set to have devolution again.

  • kokane

    I always assumed that Super Councils were part of Plan B – they would have become more relevant and beefed up by the Engleze if DUP did not do as they were told. SF should trade down the number in return for something else they want.

  • willis

    Chris

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    What about Quadruple jobbing to include Army Council/Moderator of Church?

  • “One issue that needs to be looked at is double and trebel jobing in Scotland and Wales this is already banned. If the new councils are going to end up almost full time positions its time for change”

    I agree entirely Noel, and I also believe that this may cause some difficulties for the SDLP and UUP. While Sinn Fein and the DUP have significant numbers of high profile and recognisable candidates within their ranks, the same cannot be said of the other 2 main parties, in particular the SDLP.

    If, for instance, Durkan and McDonnell wish to remain as MP’s (mandates permitting) where would that leave them at Stormont? New Stormont Minister Margaret Ritchie is already being targeted for McGrady’s South Down seat.

    The SDLP would surely suffer still further in future assembly elections with a virtually unrecognisable public profile within many constituencies. The effect might not be quite as bad on the UUP as Lady Sylvia is their only current MP at Westminster.

  • IJP

    It is unfortunate this debate has come down to “number of Councils”, and I’m afraid it indicates where too many Councillors’ priorities lie. For the “number of Councils” is arbitrary and almost irrelevant except, of course, to local politicians themselves.

    The issue is how to provide best-value public services. Which of these should be provided locally? How should they provided? How should legal back-up, planning appeals, regulators etc apply?

    The current proposals are a disaster. For all the talk of “coterminosity” (i.e. Council boundaries matching those used for Health Boards, Education agencies, Further Education Institutes, policing units etc), none of this has happened. The boundaries simply do not match for any but the latter (and even then, the police has gone for two in Belfast). That’s partly because the Government has rammed through ludicrous proposals to get our politicos back up the Hill. But I’m afraid our own politicians are hardly blameless, given the focus on numbers rather than sound and accountable public governance.

    I have to say that the average SF Councillor was unconcerned by the 15-council model, and so for the record I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up somewhat nearer than than the 7-council.

    Chris

    if media vox pops were anything to go by, the wider public also seemed to endorse this rationalisation of the local government bureaucracy.

    To be fair, that certainly ties in with what I hear. To be honest, few people outside the Council chamber are sympathetic to anything other than seven (although most would add that the seven should consist of County Councils plus Belfast, none of this “Inner East” nonsense).

    The difficulty with seven is that, in practice, it will inevitably lead to additional town councils. Hardly a “removal of bureaucracy”. So while seven sounds good, far from removing bureaucracy, it will likely do the opposite.

  • IJP

    Quickly, I personally oppose any attempt at banning “double-” or “treble-jobbing”.

    If the electorate doesn’t like politicians doing two, three or even four jobs, then it is up to the electorate to remove them!!

    I personally struggle to see how someone can be an effective advocate for one area at local level and another area at regional level (typically larger, but sometimes completely different), but I have no difficulty with someone being MP/MLA at the same time – indeed, it makes sense that they deal both with home affairs (Belfast) and foreign/fiscal affairs (London) at the same time, after all, MPs in England already do both.

  • Sean

    The whole of the 6 counties is hardly larger than a postage stamp even 7 councils sounds like a waste of effort and red tape.

    I know its part of the NI narative to see the differences between us and themuns 5 miles away but really whats the difference?

    If anything it should be shrunk to 3 who report to a minister in storomont and maybe if you broke down your micro regionalisation you would be more prepared to act as a whole instead of as 1.3 million individuals. And the whole sectarian nonsense could disapear

  • Philip

    In the Ulster Star in Lisburn Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson MP, MLA, and sitting councillor is reported as saying this is not a done deal. Mind you in the letter’s page, people are starting to question the man’s ability to do three jobs without a conflict of interest, duty and competently given we all need sleep and all are subject to the same hours in the day. In addition, it is a matter of morality too. I do not argue with the fact that it is lawful but is it moral and constitutional that this should happen in this new (sic) era.
    I note that the Republic of Ireland has proscribed the dual mandate rule, and I further note that the secretary of state was going to make this law here too, but if authority has passed to Stormont why should same councillors make law that takes away another avenue of income for the same legislators?

  • Greenflag

    ‘If anything it should be shrunk to 3’

    Good idea but maybe 4 would do the busines

    1) Derry Urban
    2) West Region (West of the Bann approx)
    3) Belfast Urban
    4) East (East of the Bann approx)

    With 3 you could omit Derry Urban .

    Any more than 7 would be daft .

  • Sean

    GreenFlag

    I would not pretend to know NI well enough to offer up how it should be sliced and diced but i will say odd numbers beat even because if for some reason a decision between the divisions needs taken then an odd number will yield a clear winner where an even number will as often yield a stalemate especially in NI

  • mickhall

    One of the reasons local politicians have been able to hold down two if not three elected positions was because they had little real power, in that they had no administrative role. Thus they were able to hop from one talking shop to another and look busy and important.

    True at Westminister the northern politicos will still just be just ‘bums on seats’, but if they gain a ministerial position in either the Stormont assemble or a portfolio on one of the super councils they will be expected to act in a full time administrative position.

    ILJ

    I feel you are wrong about continuing to allow people to sit as an MLA and MP for the reasons you gave, after all in other parts of the UK MPs consult with MEP perfectly well so I see no reason why MPs and MLA cannot do like wise. I am surprised you as a liberal take this tack, as surly the whole point about democracy is to have as many people as possible involved in the decision making process.

    Anyone who feels the likes of Donaldson, McG or Paisley are irreplaceable are missing the point.

  • Owen Lee Joe King

    It is unbelievable the amount of public reps you guys think you need to run a micro-colony. NI doesn’t even have the population of a typical small city in North America. Perhaps one council with about 15 members would be appropriate and sufficient. That is if you could find 15 reps worthy of being elected. (And I am from Belfast originally). Sean in post #16 got it right.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is unbelievable the amount of public reps you guys think you need to run a micro-colony. NI doesn’t even have the population of a typical small city in North America. Perhaps one council with about 15 members would be appropriate and sufficient. That is if you could find 15 reps worthy of being elected. (And I am from Belfast originally). Sean in post #16 got it right.

    Note that unlike in many parts of the USA, in NI we do not elect district attorneys, civil servants and other public offices. I think the United States is a prime example of how over-consulting the electorate actually undermines the democratic system. I believe that in California they hold referenda once (or more?) per year on significant issues of the day.

    I am inclined to agree with IJP. Speaking anecdotally, most people I know will throw their weight behind whatever reduces the number of elected officials and bureaucrats. It’s hard to think of anyone outside of political circles who thinks that we need more politicians to run things.

    It does annoy me that there are politicians who are elected to three jobs and get salaried for each. The most extreme case has got to be the Robinson family, who collectively must be the worst value for money of any politicians in the UK when you take into account their expenses as well as their salaries. There may well be a case for banning family members from drawing a salary from the expenses of elected representatives as well.

  • Greenflag

    sean,

    ‘I would not pretend to know NI well enough’

    How lucky you are 🙂

    As a rule the fewer the better (politicians but not too few . Multi seat constituencies under our proportional representation voting system is an excellent means for keeping the politicians so busy looking over their shoulders at opponents/competitors /within their own party that they hardly have time to be anything other than automatons when it comes to passing legislation .

    See Ardal O’Hanlon’s( Former Father Ted ) -Do you want to be Taoiseach ? on RTE website for a
    tongue in cheek but essentially accurate run down on what is involved in climbing the greasy pole of Irish politics . For Northern Ireland just smack on some heavy sectarian / denominational grease to the pole and the same will apply .

    By comparison I’d say American would be politicians have it ‘easy’ ?

    Comrade Stalin:

    ‘I think the United States is a prime example of how over-consulting the electorate actually undermines the democratic system. ‘

    Aha back to the old Stalinist roots eh ? The less the people know what we are doing then the less likely it is that they will discover how many idiots are trying to run/ruin the country ?

    News from Moscow these days has the former Communists /New Bolshivists complaining about the fact that Putin’s Government is trying to curtail/limit their right to
    protest on the streets .

    When one thinks back on how Stalin dealt with those who ‘protested ‘ against his ‘Government’. I wonder if the irony has yet dawned on the ‘new Bolsheviks ‘ ?

  • Ballyclare Man

    I always felt it unfair that Ballyclare and Hollywood each had to come under Newtownabbey and Bangor respectively council while somewhere with no identity such as Castlereagh had a council. Therefore I would propose merging Castlereigh into Belfast and allowing Ballyclare and Hollywood to have their own councils.

  • Smithsonian

    IJP
    Can’t agree with you on this one. MPs should be in Westminster trying to make friends and influence people to give us more resources (money)

    MLAs should in Stormont trying to agree the priorities for spending that money and ensuring that it is spent well.

    You can’t be in two places at once.

    Currently the only benefit of having an MP is the increase in the office allowance so they can afford to employ more constituency workers.

    As for councillors, currently just a nursery for would be politicians, no power and no influence which is just as well given the ability of must of them. Who are they anyway?

    They should be in the constituency not in Stormont, ideally they should non party political but that is too much to ask for.

    The problem with having Jeffrey Donaldson as your local councillor is that four non entities come in on his coat tails so you end up dealing with people of modest ability whilst JD spends most of his time in another place.

  • Dave

    What about Peter Robinson councillor, MLA, MP and now taking up a position within the Assembly this is ludicrous.

  • Shamrock

    SF will not be the ones to cave in here it will be the DUP!
    They will see the advantage of the 7 Councils in that they will rule three of them while the Shinners will rule the other three with one neutral.
    Local identity will be lost and the more rural areas will have no voice – funding and opportunities will be diverted to those areas which have suffered over the years from the troubles – more so than ever – while those areas most in need of more facilities and help as regards social and economic development will be forgotten about unless they are a strong hold for one of these parties or the other!
    Democracy at its best in Northern Ireland!!!!!!!!!

  • abucs

    I think the number of councils is inversly proportional to the amount of power ‘economies of scale’ will let them have.

    A lot of councils equals no power. A few councils equals lots of power.

    Now that the ‘assembly’ has finally decided it wants power, i can’t see them wanting to easily cede any of it away.

    Hence the push for lots more councils and dilute any chance of losing some assembly power. On balance of political influence, they will probably get them IMHO.

  • Philip

    I read a comment here that the best example of democracy is in Northern Ireland. I believe this is untrue for the following reason:
    To begin with we do not have a pure democracy were voters have direct influence on an issue, instead we have representative democracy were by proxy Person A represents a class of voters. This introduces into the equation Person As biases and prejudices. Hence, at best Joe Smith has indirect influence by lobbying etc (some would say this is why the ‘brown envelope’ comes in so handy).
    In today’s society a purer form of democracy should be possible. Take for example the discussion on topic. If the legislators are prejudiced by the fact that they are also sitting councillors maybe they should permit a direct vote to the electorate via secure Internet link – after all we all have a unique National Insurance Number etc.

  • Snaz

    As a serving local councillor (and let me tell you no one in their right mind would do it for the money!!) the whole issue of implementation of RPA is a total farce.

    Take my own proposed area of “Inner East”. Lisburn, Newtownabbey, Antrim and Carrickfergus have all spent millions of pounds on their main Council building over the last 5 years.

    There is no joint up thinking on basic issues like significant public expenditure and there are real fears that public representives from “another area” will not invest/reinvest in existing/proposed new facilities. Therefore everyone is trying to ensure their local schemes are up and running before RPA kicks in. Problem is that the bigger authorities rate payers will be paying for the larger capital schemes (leisure centres etc) for the next 30 years not just the next 2.

    I do think there has to be some civic interest, I mean a mayor of Inner East has to represent from Moira to Whitehead, its a joke.

    The current enhanced proposals to devolve more powers to local government also come with a major rate payer health warning.

    A good example of this is local roads. Quarterly we have Roads service in telling us of the current under investment in our repairs/maintenance programmes. By devolving that responsibility to Council quite simply the rate payer will be asked to foot the bill between what cash is centrally given and the cost of doing the job.

    This leads nicely on to the double jobbing. Simple. It is a massive conflict of interest. If it your job/your parties portfolio to allocate central funds for say Roads and you are also the same person arguing for more cash rather than further burden the rate payer.

    In terms of Party support in that event it would hurt all parties and if such an election was held outside of a Westminster one the turnout, in my opinion, would be very poor. At local government level much more than at Assembly elections most parties are relying on their MLAS to bring in the other candidates. It really will change the dynamics of politics here and will provide significant opportunities for some much needed newer and younger talent.

    Finally as a Director of a £20m company I would definetly have been for the smaller the better but now, from the inside I can see the amount of diverse issues that Council deals with, its real community identity and the Co Terminocity issues (for examples in the PSNI/DPP) so I would go for 15 or 11.

  • “I do think there has to be some civic interest, I mean a mayor of Inner East has to represent from Moira to Whitehead, its a joke. “

    Hear, hear. Even Newtownabbey and Lisburn have sweet f**k all to do with each other.

    The problem is that many of these areas (definitely bits of Newtownabbey, Castlereagh and bits of “Lisburn”) really belong in Belfast, but we don’t dare change Belfast’s boundaries for fear of upsetting the old sectarian headcount. This place is depressing.

    I don’t know why they’ve invested so much into drawing up plans and proposals and stuff. Just more government waste and red tape. While it would mean losing Newtownabbey, the Westminster constituencies seems like a much better starting point than the 7 proposed councils, except for having one big Belfast one.

  • IJP

    Smithsonian

    Well, Stormont only sits on Mondays and Tuesdays. So although you can’t be in two places at once, you can be in two places during the one week.

    However, my main point is that if we don’t want MLAs being MPs, we shouldn’t elect them as MPs (or as MLAs, whichever it may be). If you’re against double-jobbing, why wait for legislation passed by those who double-job, rather than just deal with it at the ballot box as is the democratic right?

    (Actually there’s an argument that Councils are the only place where there’s any real power. The list of legislation that Stormont did differently from Westminster – in any incarnation – is back-of-a-postage-stamp stuff really.)

  • IJP

    mickhall

    On the contary, I believe as a Liberal in people power.

    I believe in decision-making as close to the people as possible, hence opposition to 7 councils.

    I also believe in democratic choice. If people wish to elect the same person to Council, Assembly and Parliament, that is up to them – we have no right to intefere.

    Personal views all, of course.

  • IJP

    Dave

    Peter Robinson was elected top of the poll for each. If he stood for MEP in ’09, he’s be elected top of the poll for that too.

    If we don’t like it, we should stop voting for it!

  • Smithsonian

    IJP
    ..because the political reality is that most people couldn’t name a local councillor. They have no idea what a councillor actually does or whether he or she does it well or not.

    In the absence of any information the voter does the best the can on the basis of party, or alphabetic listing. Those with a high profile from other areas such as MP or MLA have an advantage.

    Political Parties know this and nominate big hitters to maintain their profile (for other elections), maximise their grouping on the council and minimise the opportunity for opponents to establish a beach head.

    It makes perfect party political sense and unless it is stopped by legislation it will not be stopped. Too suggest otherwise is naive and I am sure that you aren’t.

  • Snaz

    Smithsonian,
    That is EXACTLY how it works and it has got worse during the last three years of 90K a year MLAs (including office staff/expenses) in effect being 100K Councillors. Full time to do Council Constituency work. A lot of Mayors are MLAs. This is not to slag them but just stating a fact. So the profile of the big hitters just got bigger.

    But forget about the facts about it the Government have made it clear that you will not be able to be an MLA and a Councillor. When Stormont is “Central Government” then it will be a complete conflict of interest. You cannot have the same people setting the regional rate and the local rate.

    Again just some of the new dynamics of real politics with real decisions that await us all and which will pitch party colleagues on both sides of the money tree. One asking one balancing the books (or trying to).

    Interesting times in which we live.

  • Sean

    “I do think there has to be some civic interest, I mean a mayor of Inner East has to represent from Moira to Whitehead, its a joke. ”

    Hear, hear. Even Newtownabbey and Lisburn have sweet f**k all to do with each other

    How far are these places apart 5-10 miles thats a huge gulf i mean heck you might not even be able to walk from one to the other in under a week.

    Even Newtownabbey and Lisburn have sweet f**k all to do with each other

    have you considered that this is part of the point, under the new system they will have to have f**k all to do with each other and maybe quit all the micro-regionalisation bulls**t

  • Philip

    Well the 26 councils were only a temporary solution under the McCrory Report of 1973 until devolution – after all a super council can take on the functions for MLAs will be there to provide real authority.
    As DUP has accepted power sharing with Sinn Fein then its just a matter of an accountant’s pen stating the obvious.

  • Valenciano

    “The boundary commissioner has completed his review of the electoral wards and has produced recommendations for the final composition of the seven councils. The next stage will involve the drawing up of the new local government constituencies (DEAs) for each of the seven councils.”

    Wrong. The review is not complete. In fact it says on the website that the revised recommendations are now subject to another month of public representations. That will be the next stage of proceedings.

  • Sean

    Valencio

    Don’t you know that whole public consultation nonsense is just a facade the decidions been made the most you will do is trade a comma for a period in 1 sentence burried deep in the middle of nowhere

  • Dewi

    Aren’t the names chosen daft and unimaginative – sound like bits of the Empire – South West Africa, Northwest Territorries. No imagination.

  • Niall Gormley

    If the numbers of councils issue is to be opened again, just for the crack here’s my stab at an 11 council model.

    http://homepage.eircom.net/~newsbase/11CouncilProposal.html

    The key to popular local government is to base it on recognised areas not to simply go for even numbers. The three local authorities in Dublin, Fingal, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown have acquired no local loyalty at all, as they were thought up out of thin air and nobody would give a hoot if they were abolished in the morning. The same thing applies to many of the newer local authorities in England.

    Now the same mistake is being applied to NI. My proposal tries to map the new councils on to the original six counties, which have retained more local identity and loyalty than the councils that replaced them thirty years ago.

  • DK

    There should be 3 councils:

    Greater Belfast – incorporating Lisburn, N’Abbey, Castlereagh (wtf is the point of this council) and Bangor.
    Cultchie North – Everything North of Omagh to Lough Neagh
    Cultchie South – Everything else

  • IJP

    Smithsonian

    Then frankly it is up to members of the electorate to inform themselves! They are the ones complaining about the salaries!

    To be blunt, it’s about time people took voting rather more seriously. If they don’t, they’ll continue to pay big money to small politicians – and it’ll be their fault, for they put them there!

  • IJP

    Snaz

    You cannot have the same people setting the regional rate and the local rate.

    Why not, out of interest?

  • Snaz

    IJP,
    Because there is a conflict of interest in terms of Central Government (The Assembly) devolving things like Roads to local government, then deciding on how much money they are going to devolve to do it, whenever local government are going to have to lobby to make sure that Central Government devolve enough to do the job. Basic point being you cannot lobby yourself. Same will apply to Planning etc. How can you bid for funding from a body that you also sit on?

  • slug

    Niall

    Thats the best model for councils that I have seen.

  • Greenflag

    Niall Gormley ,

    ‘Now the same mistake is being applied to NI. My proposal tries to map the new councils on to the original six counties, which have retained more local identity and loyalty than the councils that replaced them thirty years ago. ‘

    Sometimes you have to go back to go forward . I presume Belfast would have it’s own City Council for those areas of Down and Antrim that are in the city ?

    Best alternative yet IMO .

  • Comrade Stalin

    Greenflag:

    Aha back to the old Stalinist roots eh ? The less the people know what we are doing then the less likely it is that they will discover how many idiots are trying to run/ruin the country ?

    With this response I’m seriously beginning to doubt your credibility as a serious contributor. Clearly there is a compromise. When you elect a politician you are giving that person the power and responsibility to make decisions on your behalf. If you won’t let politicians take decisions by themselves then what are they for ? Imagine if we held a referendum instead of every vote in the UK parliament. There would be a poll almost every day of the year, and nobody would turn up; the whole system would collapse.

    How is that Stalinist ?

    News from Moscow these days has the former Communists /New Bolshivists complaining about the fact that Putin’s Government is trying to curtail/limit their right to
    protest on the streets .

    I see little difference between the Moscow handling of that protest, and the way the protests outside of the World Bank/IMF/etc/etc are man-handled by authorities in the Western world. In the UK they used the provisions of the terrorism act to block off protesting at the G7 summit in Glenagles, even though the intent was to stop a legitimate protest, not terrorism. This is a pretty obvious example of how liberty-curbing legislation can be used easily for the wrong thing.

    I cannot apologize for Putin’s darker side, but despite his methods the man has been broadly successful in stabilizing a country that barely understands democracy. It went from a monarchy, to another type of monarchy calling itself communism, to an unstable democracy all over a short period of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    When one thinks back on how Stalin dealt with those who ‘protested ‘ against his ‘Government’. I wonder if the irony has yet dawned on the ‘new Bolsheviks ‘ ?

    Quite true. My end came when I protested against myself, this forced Beria to take decisive action. I don’t really regret it, after running the Soviet Union for a few years you do get bored.

    Philip:

    Take for example the discussion on topic. If the legislators are prejudiced by the fact that they are also sitting councillors maybe they should permit a direct vote to the electorate via secure Internet link – after all we all have a unique National Insurance Number etc.

    Another proposal to solve an imaginary problem using technology that you don’t understand. Are you a member of the Labour Party ?

    Leaving aside the significant number of citizens, particularly older people and those in less well-off areas, who do not have access to the Internet, there is the problem of authentication. There is absolutely no way to provide assurance that anonymous electronic voting, in these or any other circumstances, is not being fiddled.

  • mickhall

    “I also believe in democratic choice. If people wish to elect the same person to Council, Assembly and Parliament, that is up to them – we have no right to interfere.
    IJP”

    IJP
    Why should the electorate take voting seriously when the Parties themselves do not, but regard placing candidates into position as on a par with divvying up the spoils for their leading members.

    It is all very well you saying it is not for you to intervene with the choice of the electorate, but my point is when the same candidate stands for MLA, MP and in some cases local councillor too, the electorate is not getting a choice within the political persuasion they support.

    I agree with you that instead of moving to unwieldily big super councils it might have been better to have gone in the opposite direction, but we both know central government loves bureaucracies, as it is able to control them far better than a host of independently minded local councils.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Philip

    Since when did you get the job as God Comrade Stalin? Attack my arguments not me!
    If person A represents a ward of 2000, say, at council level and represents a province of 1.5 million, say, on the otherhand will this whose interests will he serve if they conflict?

  • lamh dearg

    IJP says “For all the talk of “coterminosity” (i.e. Council boundaries matching those used for Health Boards, Education agencies, Further Education Institutes, policing units etc), none of this has happened. The boundaries simply do not match for any but the latter (and even then, the police has gone for two in Belfast).”

    Health is moving that way, the new trusts match are are up and running since 01 April, the new LCGs match and have been appointed since 01 April and are starting to shadow the old Board structures which are doomed from 31 March 2008.

    But again here the problem is the shoe-horning of some areas into the “wrong” Council/LCG with which neither population nor services have any affinity or history. Classic example Magherafelt, always part of Northern Health Board, gets services from Northern providers now is in North West LCG where everyone else gets services from Western/Altnagelvin Trust. Bizarre and I imagine the same lack of affinity affects Education, Council services and so on.

  • Ian

    Niall:

    “here’s my stab at an 11 council model.”

    One question, why does Lisburn merit its own City Council? It was only designated as a City in 2002 (when it was proposed that England, Scotland, Wales and NI would all be granted a new city for the Golden Jubilee) because Newry was the best candidate for City status but that would be seen as too biased in favour of nationalists (John ‘Cold House for Protestants’ Reid was SoS at the time) so the Powers That Be threw in an extra joke ‘City’ in the form of Lisburn.