“Modest modifications have been made…”

Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, has claimed in a ‘leaked’ Executive document that plans to complete the reduction in the number of local government councils from 26 to 11 councils in total could be under threat due to a failure to agree the new boundaries. Alliance leader, David Ford, quite rightly notes that this dire warning by the Minister indicates a willingness on behalf of the Minister to ignore the recommendations of the impartial Boundary Commissioner. As I understand it, the conflict would appear to relate to the boundaries of the Minister’s own local government council (Lisburn) which have caused consternation within political unionist circles. So is this an attempt by the DUP to wield the (by now rusty) knife of the once dominant gerrymanderer?

Here’s what Edwin Poots had to say in the Assembly on the 20th October on the matter:

I took on board the lobbying that took place on behalf of the residents of Dunmurry on the boundary changes, through the submission that was made to the Executive. I identified a stronger boundary than the one that was included in the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner’s proposal. Modest modifications have been made.

That would be the same lobbying on behalf of ‘residents of Dunmurry’ which the Boundary Commission rejected.

  • picador

    Timely post Chris. Sounds like attempted gerrymander to me. Does Poots [i]really[/i] have the power to override the Boundary Commission’s final recommendation? Surely not?

  • willowfield

    The proposed Belfast boundary is already a gerrymander. The proposed boundary is designed to extend the boundaries while ensuring that there is no unionist majority. Hence we have the ludicrous situation, for example, whereby Four Winds and Newtownbreda will not be part of Belfast.

    As for Dunmurry, it should be in Belfast as proposed.

  • iluvni

    So, thats £5million wasted in this department on the councils, £3-4million wasted on the Maze farce.
    Nice job, Mr Poots.
    Devolution at work.

  • “Plans to streamline Northern Ireland’s 26 local councils could be on the verge of collapse, leading to elections next year, a Stormont minister has warned.”

    Seems like my ‘rumour’ in NALIL blog back in September had legs: it was linked on Slugger. I was also told at that time that a ministerial announcement due in January wouldn’t be made until March at the earliest.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Picador

    Judging by the ‘leaked’ Executive letter, whatever power he has is curtailed by the mutual veto at Executive level.

  • picador

    So are we talking confidence-building measures here?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Picador

    I assume you’re referring to that non-defined ‘community’ that requires confidence at the moment.

    I’d imagine this one will prove hard to resolve; yielding over this for Sinn Fein will leave the party exposed to the charge of permitting the DUP to rip up the non-partisan recommendations of the Boundary Commissioner, setting a dangerous precedent (not to mention providing another example of the party failing to halt the DUP’s agenda.)

  • JoMax

    Chris Donnelly
    Sinn Fein have a lot to answer for in their sordid stitch-up with the DUP which puts nationalist-majority councils like Limavady and Armagh (under the 26 council model) into unionist-majority councils (under the 11 council model).

  • elvis parker

    I agree with Willowfield Neownbreda and Four Winds – all the urban bits should surely be in Belfast.
    Also if it makes sense to put Lagmore and Dunmurry into Belfast why not Dundonald?

  • fair_deal

    “Does Poots really have the power to override the Boundary Commission’s final recommendation? Surely not?”

    AFAIK the minister only has the power to make minor changes.

  • fair_deal, when did you first hear that an election to the current 26 councils in May was on the cards? You must be privy to this sort of information 😉

  • JoMax, you’ve overlooked the much more important Moyle Council 😉

  • JoMax

    Nevin

    You’re quite right about Moyle. Thank you for confirming the stitch-up. Though, to be honest, Moyle has such a tiny electorate that it’s easy to overlook at times. Some DEAs in Belfast have more voters than in the whole of Moyle.

    Also, it has such a long tradition of “independent councillors” that the big parties are unwilling to invest a lot of organisational resource in it.

  • Stiffpilchard

    Your link is wrong. It is to the Boundary Commission and it should be to the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner’s Office.

  • JoMax, sadly, the tradition of independent councillors here has almost disappeared. Also it’s my feeling that councillors could be better informed by officials about what is being done in their name. I’m also told that Moyle is one of the few councils where the agenda for council meetings isn’t published on the council website.

  • DR

    So if this stage of the council reorganisation is gonig to be delayed, maybe it should be scrapped altogether!

  • picador

    Willowfield,

    The suburbs along the Saintfield Road are all thoroughly integrated so your point does not hold.