Another reason the DUP compromised on councils

I blogged yesterday on the deal on reducing the number of councils to 11. It is interesting that initially the other parties apart from SF supported 15 councils, SF wanted 7 whilst it was unclear exactly what the DUP wanted thought they did not like 7. As such I suppose the 11 council model could be seen as a reasonable compromise achieved by the DUP.Indeed in the executive only the UUP opposed the compromise, with Alliance also doing opposing it from outside. In the new less friendly atmosphere up on the hill, however, one might have expected the DUP to draw a line in the sand, and demand at least 15 councils. That leaves aside another interesting fact: the Belfast Telegraph makes an interesting point here that had an agreement not been reached another set of council by elections would have occurred next year. Instead now elections can be postponed until 2011. Of course had there been council elections next year they were due to be held in May. I suspect in reality they would have en held at the same time as the next European elections. Having council elections at the same time as the European elections, however, would have helped the TUV with momentum and even if Jim Allister had lost his seat, would have potentially provided the TUV with a significant consolation prize. Instead the DUP may calculate if there are no council elections and if Jim Allister looses the European election it may damage the TUV allowing the DUP to write them off. Not that mere intra unionist party advantage would ever have motivated the DUP.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    are you seriously suggesting that we believe that the DUP was prepared to compromise it’s principles simply for electoral reasons?

  • 11 is an adequate number but the decision is long overdue. I’d be interested to hear a proper statment from the UUP on this as Fred Cobains comments appear more as an initial reaction.

    I think your right Turgon – this has a lot to do with bypassing an election in 2009 and I will be interested in seeing if any arrangements are made for cllrs standing down (paid off) and co-options. In reality you are taking about an 8 year council life so some fresh faces are needed.

  • fair_deal


    Did it cross your mind that 15 was a negotiating tactic? When was 15 local councils a Unionist ‘principle’ requiring a ‘line in the sand’?

    Devolution, its review of RPA and thus the likelihood of the local government elections being put back from 2009 has been floating around since before TUV was even founded.

  • Observer

    The current councils were mandated to serve a four year term and for Government to come along, and as a pure piece of political expediency, extend their term to six years is a blatant example of undemocratic practice. Still with the arrogance displayed by some of the supposed democratic parties in the big house nothing should surprise us any more. This sort of electoral manipulation would have been accepted as standard in Russia in the bad old days of Kremlin rule. The brainbox’s in the DUP strategy department must think that we are all mugs!

  • Stalking Horse

    “Did it cross your mind that 15 was a negotiating tactic?”

    Haha. Good one…

  • Michael Shilliday

    “Did it cross your mind that 15 was a negotiating tactic?”

    So you think 11 is a good result do you?

  • George

    the councillors need to be paid off for their superb service in the dark days, when they kept the flame of democracy alive in NI.

    At least that’s one excuse I heard.

  • none
  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    What are the UUP on about in Belfast – how does this change things signicantly?

  • Steve

    the flame of democracy went out in nIreland at partition

    we are just now witnessing its rekindling

  • None – thanks for the link.

    Trevor Wilson is hittin the nail on the head about the fear of election.

  • “So you think 11 is a good result do you?”

    Why is it not? It seems odd splitting Newtownabbey from Carrick, but not half as odd as lumping both in with Lisburn.

  • x

    “Did it cross your mind that 15 was a negotiating tactic?”

    So I suppose we are to belive that when Lisburn Council backed 7, the DUP were covering all negotiating bases?

    The DUP had no negotiating position, they had no principles by which to guide their decisoin except one – how many seats can we guarantee ourselves? Now look at the plans, compare all the other proposed maps and quess what, 11b gives the best chance of DUP control of new councils.

    Sounds like a gerrymander to me!!

  • fair_deal


    The self-interests of a single council are not a party position.

  • How about we start talking about what these councils are actually going to do rather than how many there are or (yawn) whether they’ll be orange or green?

  • majordolittle

    bin collection and…er…

  • BonarLaw

    Let’s see… according to Trevor Wilson the UUP would have held out for local authority bounbaries coterminus with Westminster constituencies. They accuse the minister of being harmful for unionism in Belfast. How, I wonder would a Belfast City Council coterminus with the new West Belfast boundaries be a positive outcome for unionism.

    I’m fond of Trevor, but he doesn’t need to try this hard to oust Billy “Portacabin” Armstrong MLA.

  • Mike C

    No harm to the TUV and UUP but I’ve heard the figure 11 being discussed for the past year. It has clearly not been a kneejerk reaction. The delay in the election as also been talked about for the past year.

  • Just Looking

    Seems the UUP only want to play when they`re in the majority

  • The__Raven

    Jenny, it might be very little extra indeed.

    Or it might be:
    bins, waste, refuse, etc
    some roads services
    some housing areas
    rural development (got it already)
    neighbourhood renewal and other social programmes currently run by DSD (got it partly already)
    extended economic development powers (filling the gap that ummm lies empty cos INI don’t like anything other than the big win stories)
    extended environmental health, pulling in some functions from H&SE;European Programmes (downsizing that shower of wasters known as SEUPB)
    increased tourism development (the local stuff, again downsizing the statutory
    and so on….

    There could be more. But the Civil Servants – a contradiction in terms if ever I heard one – will not want to give away much. Councils account for around 5% of the Northern Ireland “pot” of expenditure overall. They may get more powers, which will take them up – brace yourselves now – 7 or 9%.

    There’s an interesting concept across the water called “the power of well-being” which could extend over here to Councils. That will be rather good to see for reasons I’m sure I don’t need to explain.

    Those people who say get rid of them, and give all the power to the glorified Council that IS the Assembly would be wise to consider how well that will work when they want to ring up and complain about missing their bin collection.

  • interested

    Good to see Jim Allister’s proxy Turgon has highlighted the lastest big treachery supposedly dealt by the DUP. Apparently now 15 Councils is actually the unionist holy grail that Chairman Jim and his happy band would deliver for us all.

    Perhaps you’d like to outline your and the omnipotent Chairman’s reasoning for why 15 is such a superb number?

    The Fred Cobain stuff is just patent sh*te frankly. His position is that the UUP would demand 15 Councils but one of those 15 would include the entirety of the Current Belast CC alongside all of Castlereagh and Newtownabbey. Exactly what size would that have left Belfast compared to the other 14 Councils? Surely the greater the number of Councils you go for the lesser the capacity to increase the size of Belfast.

    Fred’s rationale that its leaves Belfast as a de facto nationalist city is also pure rubbish. Firstly, if prods got off their arse and voted Belfast would have a quite healthy unionist majority on the Council as it is. However, there will have to be a Boundary Commissioner appointed to look at the boundaries – just as there would have been under the proposed 7 Councils. He/She will have the power to add or subtract areas from the current proposed Councils. They won’t be able to shift all of the area of for example Castlereagh but they would be able to move anything less than half of it. Surely even if you added 1/3 of Castlereagh BC and 1/3 of Newtownabbey BC incorporating the parts of those Councils which are very ‘naturally’ Belfast it would leave a City with a very healthy unionist majority.

    Mind you, the short sightedness of people like Fred Cobain would never, ever see that and they’ll have the fervent support of the TUVvies who see treachery around every corner in the little world of conspiracy theory which they seem to inhabit.

    None of all that takes into account the other issue in that you have to have a degree of economy of scale if you want any powers transferred to these new Councils – whether Councillors are actually fit to exercise the powers they currently have is another topic, but surely the serial junketeers of the UUP would love more powers to give them a few more trips.

    Again, all ignored in the rush to criticise something just because the DUP might have brought it forward.

    Does Fred Cobain care that Limavady will now be under a unionist controlled Council. Similarly with Banbridge – somewhere the TUVvies might feel an affinity with. The good people of Dromore (apparently the scene of DUP downfall) wont be under a nationalist controlled Council but instead will continue to be in a majority unionist area. But of course Turgon that’s all part of the DUP “compromise” on the Councils.

    You’re very touchy at being linked in with the most nutterish elements of Allister’s crazy band – but sometimes there’s more than a little evidence of that present.

    Keep it up Turgon – can’t let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory now can we!!!

  • Another Limavady Wan


    It’s not a bad thing about Limavady. The whole Borough has been run from Dungiven for too long.

  • slug

    The Antrim councils seem a little strange.

    Surely a better arrangement would have been:

    Newtownabbey, Carrick, Larne


    Antrim, Ballymena.

  • Turgon

    What is interesting is that we were told that you would stop republicans and we would come closer to a battle a day. Little sign of battling here; just half hearted negotiations and then a compromise with suited you and SF for differing reasons and which although it will hurt the SDLP they agreed with for reasons best known to themselves.

    15 councils is not really the point. My thesis is that your party wanted to ensure that there would be no election for reasons of inter unionist party advantage. As such (and SF will have known this well) your negotiating position vis a vis SF was weakened by your need to defeat your internal enemies within unionism. That has mildly disadvantaged both unionism, and it seems the SDLP. I have no problem per se with you playing that party political game. I do have a problem with you trying to pretend that this is not what you have done. You have traded short term advantage for the DUP with long term advantage for republicans and I do have a problem with that.

  • Danny O’Connor

    what a bollix,the minister has decided that 11 councils would be the most effective way to deliver uhhhmm.What these councils are going to deliver has not yet been decided,therefore how can anybody judge the most effective delivery mechanism .Form follows function,here we have the horse following the cart.

  • The__Raven

    Yeah but Danny, we all know that there have been powers, as listed above, mooted for ages. Chances are they will get them. And hopefully not under some awful transfer of powers arrangement, cos the last thing you want is to get these powers, and then get the civil servants with them.

    Still. One thing’s for sure. All those personnel problems you’ve been having in Larne will (within a few years) be part of the dim and distant past…

  • Danny O’Connor

    I take your point.If you are seeking to deliver local government effectively you have to ask some very pertinent questions-which as yet have not been proposed system will have 60 councillors which will in my area be more than the 3 councils currently have.In terms of management will there have to be a new recruitment process or is it assumed that some of the current incumbents will automatically be confirmed in position,eg what happens to the current hr managers in all 3 councils do we lose people in redundancies or will the issue be fudged by making 1 of them “senior HR manager” and creating another level of bureaucracy.In simple terms if you are going to take children to school in a bus you need to know how many their are before you know what size of bus you need.I dont think that current frontline services will be too badly hit,at least I hope they wont,but everything is still so vague.I would hope the savings would be in avoiding duplication.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I hope that rpa is about efficiency and not just shuffling the deck .I do think that there are many areas where efficiency savings could be made,LG is only a small part of that.

  • Crataegus


    what a bollix,the minister has decided that 11 councils would be the most effective way to deliver uhhhmm.What these councils are going to deliver has not yet been decided,therefore how can anybody judge the most effective delivery mechanism .Form follows function,here we have the horse following the cart.

    Good posts

    I have been following this subject in utter amazement. I must be losing my grip but like so many other things I can not see any coherent approach to this. Why 11 and why not 12, 14 or 8? What is the rational in deciding? Is it political or is it based on natural hinterlands and delivery of services? What services?

    Do all the council areas have to be of similar size in relation to population and if so why? Why is greater Belfast carved up? How does that assist planning and service provision?

    What are these councils going to do? What does the Assembly do, how is power delegated and just how much?

    What will the cost of this reorganisation be? How much disruption will there be? I assume that many of the new council offices will no longer be required, so how will they be disposed of or will they be retained and services scattered around?

    Between redundancies (or as you point out possible additional layers), new signage, letterheads, logos, moving staff, re organising, re equipping and merging services and computer systems this has the potential to prove extremely expensive.

    Usually when you embark on something that involves major reorganisation you set out with clear reasons and objectives.

    Does anyone really think that major dollops of power is going to be handed down from the Assembly? That place has little enough power as it is. That place has had to subdivide departments so everyone can have a few ministries.

  • The Raven


    You’re still going to need most of those staff. Think it through – increased powers will need increased people.

    Councils are going to be more like their counterparts across the water. And unlike our Councils, they have the manpower to undertake the work.

    The only real savings will be made in the reduction of chief executives, and MAYBE…just MAYBE at director level. In Northern Ireland, despite what people think, several jobs may fall under the remit of one person in Councils.

    Across the water, each of those jobs would have a dedicated person. Under RPA here, there will be increased specialism instead of “jacks of all trades”.

    Crataegus, I refer you back to an earlier post of mine: Councils only account for around 5% of the public “pot” of expenditure. This will increase – but only to about 7-9%

    If it’s governmental savings you’re looking for, you need to looking elsewhere. Even at 26, Councils were never the big spenders of public money…

  • Truth & Justice

    With six Unionionist controlled councils it sounds a good deal with Belfast with a 47% unionist population, 44% Catholic staying around the same. However if castleragh had gone into Belfast there would have been a knock on effect with 5 Unionist and 5 Nationalist contolled Councils the UUP would have sacrificed another area, however the boundry commission is to set the boundries and there could still be the chance that parts of Castlereagh could be included, it is also sad to see the UUP were on board for the 11B until the last minute and decided it was a big stick they could use to beat the DUP it is however not and most people i have talked to are happy enough. the reality is the DUP have stopped Sinn Fein from geting the 7 model in line with the Republic and this has been stopped!It is also up to both Unionist partys to get nionism out to vote in Belfast, if they did they would have control it is also woth mentioning that Unionism needs to start to encourage and move protestants back into Belfast and in this way Belfast can be back in Unionist control!

  • Danny O’Connor

    I know the point you are making,but RPA was about reviewing all public administration.Look at the spending on health,all thoser boards and trusts,agencies etc,no reduction in frontline services but we dont need all this additional admin costs ,look at the record of the publicaccounts committee and see how much waste there is.As I said LG is only a small part,the sensible thing would have been to start with the areas where most money is spent,Health,Education,DRD,DSD

  • Crataegus

    The Raven

    Crataegus, I refer you back to an earlier post of mine: Councils only account for around 5% of the public “pot” of expenditure. This will increase – but only to about 7-9%

    I know I think the whole process is insane. I wouldn’t reorganise my business interests on 2%. For years I have said that reorganisation will cost a fortune and I cannot see adequate justification. How do you save on bin collection or cutting the grass in the Park. Once you start devolving more power you need to consider the geographic demographics and not the political demographics.

    Truth & Justice

    It should be about delivering quality services efficiently to the population that have to live in this place. It should have little to do with stopping Sinn Fein from getting the 7 model in line with the Republic. Equally it should have nothing to do with achieving such a model.

    Practical issues require practical solutions. In my opinion our local political class are incapable of making rational decisions on such issues. They have vested interests in the outcome that have little to do with the delivery of the Services and until they step above that self interest, or others are given the job (and similar jobs). we are heading nowhere sane.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Truth and Justice,are you suggesting a sectarian carve up has just taken place, and it is about who is in control, us or them,I had hoped we would have dealt with this with some degree of objectivity,-by doing what is best in the interest of everybody,rather than the interest of narrow sectarian or party polical interests.It is about delivering good public services to the people-all of them not about who is in control.

  • Butterknife

    The adoption of 11 councils not only emphasises that the main parties are the DUP and Sinn Fein by the fact that 11 is simply the mean of the 2 parties tactics but also the former party’s fear of what will happen at the ballot box next time round in their abandonment of principle for power.
    Watching Let’s Talk it occurred to me that Ian Paisley lives by the Bible and it is the Christian belief that one can repeat so one concludes that for the last 40 years but 2 he was either a false prophet or that for the last 2 he has seen the light and he has duped us all.
    Politics is all about power so well done the DUP! I hope it was all worth it …

  • dupmember

    Setting aside Turgon obvious spitefulness regarding the decision made on the 13th and we all know where he is coming from he is J. A’s mouthpiece.

    Regarding the reorganisation of local councils it may be a good thing for economies of scale to reduce from 26 to 11 and I am all for that if it proves to be a saving for the ratepayers, but I wait to be convinced about that. Central government is where the changes and efficiencies should have started, there are 11 departments and 100’s of quangos which should have been dealt with by the Executive first and perhaps then it could have transferred a reasonable amount of functions to enhance local government instead we have the Cinderella functions they don’t want or are too much trouble to deal with. This shake up in local government is going to cost millions and will save very little in the short or long term and in the end the ratepayers will take up the shortfall with any transferred service. The functions that are going to councils are pitiful some say even insulting, the word coterminous has been forgotten about and community planning is a joke.

  • Mike C

    Dismantle the quangos, transfer powers back to the elected representatives and bring accountability back! If politicians aren’t making the decisions what is the point of having them there?

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Isn’t now the ideal time for the ‘green’ councils to be named in Irish or bilingually?

  • interested

    Re stopping republicans – that has happened. See numerous threads on the Irish language Act and more recently on academic selection. Of course the hard of thinking amongst unionists expected republicans to stand up and shout “we’ve been beaten” every time this happens. The problem with some unionists is that they just cant see a victory when it hits them on the nose.

    Re the ‘battle a day’ – surely there have been battles, but do you believe that the DUP should actually go out of their way and pick fights when there are none present? If the DUP have succeeded in areas then surely its better to progress the agenda without needlessly having pointless fights with the Shinners. We all know that Jim Allister is a pointlessly agressive individual so maybe that is now TUV policy. Personally I imagined there would be more ‘battles’ but it would appear that they just haven’t been necessary. Of course in the world of TUV that obviously means defeat – see again the point about some people not seeing a victory when it comes and slaps them on the face.

    Of course you believe the DUP wanted to avoid an election – coming from this notion that the world somehow shuddered on its axis the day the people of Dromore went to the polls. You justify that belief now that the DUP position was therefore ‘weakened’ and that resulted in 11 Councils. However, you give absolutely no justification as to why 15 would have been a better result. There are no objective reasons why 15 Councils would have ‘benefitted’ unionsm.

    Lets remember of course that the actual TUV position is for 7 Councils. The TUV have advocated a return to Direct Rule (see the leaflet released at the launch of this party/movement). Direct Rule would have only one outcome – that the people Keith Harbinson wanted to go out and vote for him in Dromore would have been put into a majority nationalist Council. In the world of the TUV of course that’s good negotiations.

    The problem you have Turgon is that the TUV may have some attractive ideas, but they’re utterly unachievable given that your party opposes devolution. It openly advocates Direct Rule therefore giving us Irish Language Legislation, 7 Councils and other things unionists have agreed they do not support. Of course you might prefer a world of principled opposition where you stand nice and cleanly ‘out from among them’ but have unacceptable policies forced onto you.

    Nice in theory – sh*te in practice. Some parallels with the TUV as a whole really.

  • steve48

    Truth and Justice
    I can assure you the UUP never supported the 11b model.

    The issue with 15 is that we could have had the co-terminosity which was supposed to represent the holy grail of structural efficiencies between all levels of government.

  • Inspector Cleauso


    Since you mention Let’s Talk what did you think of David McNarry’s performance? Did you here him on Inside Politics today?

    I think he made abit of a mug himself.

    In recent media performances he is managing to demonstrate more hatred for fellow Unionists that even Jim Allister!

  • Inspector Cleauso

    Did anyone here McNarry being interviewed on Good Morning Ulster about the lack of parking places and pavement access for wheelchair users in one of the towns in Strangford? (it was about 8:10 on a Monday am, I was travelling to Belfast City Airport) He finished his interview by saying that something needed to be done about the lack of wheelchair access because “everyone needs to get out for a walk now and then” I kid you not.

  • Buggerhed

    Wasn’t the 7 council model opposed because it divided Northern Ireland into a Green west and Orange east?

    Now, by my predictions Derry/Strabane, Omagh/Fermanagh, Dungannon/Cookstown/Magherafelt will still give a very green west. Whilst the new Newry/Downpatrick adds a green south. The remainder is a orange centre. So where’s the difference? There is no doubt that the DUP are wonderful and have delivered the best, fairest deal in the world, but can somebody please make it clearer exactly how?

  • Turgon

    Firstly apologies for not getting back to you. I am actually a bit sick today.

    I accept that collapsing the agreement could result in Plan B and that might indeed not be nice. I guess the fundamental difference between me and you is that I believe that new negotiations would be possible and you believe we would get a punitive plan B.

    Even a punitive plan B would, however be likely (though not necessarily) to be more acceptable to me than having SF in government without considerable further concessions from them. It is a difference almost more philosophical than anything else.

    If your thesis succeeds and SF are rendered impotent, do end up fully supporting democracy and the IRA does genuinely go away; then I will be pleased to admit I was wrong.

    Just on one point I am happy to indulge in robust debate with yourself and indeed Bigger Picture, fair_deal etc. but I think we all on this web site should remember, even if at times our leaders forget it, that we are actually on the same side (all opposing terrorists and their cheerleaders) and maybe should try to be at least reasonably courteous to one another. Now I am in a non combative mood so I will go to bed and I am sure we can resume debate and indeed argument at a later date.


  • Steve


    Your arguement has a basic flaw….. you only oppose republican terroristys and there supporters. The rest is just so much lip service so that you can sooth your own conscience

  • Turgon

    Yes fine Steve; indeed I am a cheerleader for loyalist terrorists. I have spent much time and effort supporting Concerned Loyalist, loftholdingswood and all the others. I am sure many people on here can confirm how I have debated with them.

    Thank you for your concern about my conscience.

  • Butterknife

    FAO Inspector Cleauso on Mar 15, 2008 @ 09:01 PM
    It is ironic that pre-1998 David McNarry’s performance would result in the DUP hailing him as a demagogue that walks in the shadow of the false prophet Paisley. However now that it is post 2003 (St. Andrew’s Agreement) it is only natural that the same fate awaits him. There was a rumour that he applied to join the DUP but they rejected him. Be it rumour or not the fact remains that he is the only MLA willing/able/courageous enough to put a face to the UUP. Needless to say, the adjective will infer the strength or weakness of the UUP in the mind of the reader of this post and of course their bias. I personally believe that many in the UUP are envious of the DUP – after all, they managed to have their cake and eat it: in politics, that is a rare and highly prized quality. The winners write the history books so even though other bloggers may remember Paisley differently, he is (alas) a winner: Alistair Campbell inferred as much but he is the master spin-doctor so he would.
    Let’s set time immemorial as 2003 and concentrate on our Stormont Government. We have a de jure consociational arrangement on the hill but a de facto Balkanisation is taking place between the two main winners of the Orange and Green variety. Is this acceptable: yes and no – but when will you, for that matter say this is enough? !

  • interested

    I actually belive also that negotiations can produce any outcome – it could be possible that the TUV would come forward with the perfect solution they’re telling the people they have tucked up their slieve. However, there are a few issues which cause me problems:
    1) Do the TUV actually support devolution
    2) If yes to above, do they actually support power-sharing in Govenrment?
    3) Do they actually believe SF could ever be in Government?
    4) If yes to above, what circumstances would be necessary?

    The trouble is that they cant/wont provide answers to these questions. The DUP wasn’t able to just sustain pure opposition with no policies as to what they would do and the TUV can’t get away with that either. I don’t happen to believe that enough of the TUV support devolution or power-sharing at all to worry whether they would get any deal never mind a good deal. Its not that long ago since the rationale for the TUV explained to me (by a member) was “power-sharing was wrong in 1973 and its still wrong today”.

    In light of that then how do you believe that you’ll get a better deal, or even any deal? I do also find it difficult that you’d prefer a possible greater role for the RoI or other anti-unionist influence which could fundamentally undermine the union instead of SF in Government where they’re accountable and a unionist veto is present.

    That’s the other big problem for the TUV – and possibly even within wider unionism – its nearly not about what’s good for the Union any more, but so long as you oppose the Shinners then you must be doing a good job. Unionism does not simply = anti-republicanism. You can keep fighting provo ghosts right into a united Ireland if you want to, but I’d prefer to work on strengthening the Union if that’s ok with you. Its a shame really Turgon, you do seem like a fairly intelligent fella and someone who lives in the 21st Century. I know Jim Allister left politics in the 80’s and re-entered politics like it was still the 80’s, but that really shouldn’t be the hallmark of every TUV member should it?

    Fair enough with all this non-combative stuff – but that’s debate. You’re outlining a strategy, a stategy in my mind is utterly ludicrous and could never be achieved. I’m not going to stop robustly pointing that out. I have nothing against negative politics – if you dish it out you have to be prepared to take it. Given you’re in the TUV you should be well aware that Chairman Jim and the rest of the members are quite happy to dish out the negativity.

    BTW again – interesting that you put “opposing the terrorists” as one of the main issues we should all be uniting around. Its just that I feel there are too many in your chosen party who actually feel a bit lost now that the terrorists are going away – they just have nothing to rail against. Comes back to that whole issue that too many unionists believe their reason for being is simply to fight against the provos rather than actually articulate a case for the Union and strengthen our place within the UK.

    Something for you to mull over…

  • interested

    Whilst we’re on the David McNarry recollections.

    He was also the man who ducked out of a difficult interview with the great excuse of:

    “I’m going to have to go now, I’ve got a pizza in the oven”

    If only Michael Howard had thought of that one during the Paxman grilling……

  • IJP

    The problem here is the nature of the discussion – in the same way our entire debate on education focuses on age and method of post-primary transfer (never mind skills, finance, religious divisions etc), or our entire debate on sexual offences focuses on age of consent (a near irrelevance in practice compared to kerb-crawling, trafficking etc), we now find this entire debate is about the number of councils (also a near irrelevance).

    The issue is that this is function following form, when it should be done the other way around. What is local government for? What is best done at local government level (either by councils themselves or in clusters)? What is best guided by local government but delivered by central government? What is best left entirely to central government? How is this all to be governed, managed and financed? There isn’t even a hint that any of this has been considered.

    11 is probably as good a number as any, but it’s been arrived at completely at random (actually as a fudge out of the only numbers allowed in legislation – 7, 11 and 15). The real opportunity – to transform local government in NI to something which really delivers and influences – has not only been missed, it hasn’t even been noted.

    One accepts Ministers are learning on the job and it’s a steep learning curve, but since most of them come from local government, you would have expected a much, much better decision-making process.